Delivery scams now account for half of all scam texts

Between April 2020 and July 2021, a whopping 53% of all reported scam text messages were related to parcel and package delivery scams – according to data from Proofpoint, the cybersecurity experts who run the UK’s 7726 text message system. That makes them the most popular “scam of choice” for online criminals.

7726 gives customers of the major mobile operators somewhere to report suspicious texts. On a classic phone keypad 7726 spells the words SPAM. It is a free service which will return an automated thank you message rather than any specific detail on the message itself.

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Delivery Scam

As we all stayed at home during the pandemic, there was a surge in demand for home deliveries; and that huge increase in activity has proved the perfect smokescreen for scammers.  They use the fact that many people have some sort of delivery ‘on its way’ to send text communications designed to trick them into handing over data from fake links and websites.

Fake text messages are commonly referred to as ‘smishing’ attacks, described by Norton as:

“when someone tries to trick you into giving them your private information via a text or SMS message…  Smishing is particularly scary because sometimes people tend to be more inclined to trust a text message than an email.  Most people are aware of the security risks involved with clicking on links in emails. This is less true when it comes to text messages.”

Further evidence that the explosion in deliveries has attracted the scammers, comes from the corresponding dip in fake messages where the scammer is pretending to be from a bank, or other financial services company.  Those attempts typically tell you that ‘your account has been compromised and that you need to move money to a safe place’.  Over the same 2020/21 period they have fallen from 37% to 23% of reported scam texts.

Sarah Lyons,  deputy director for Economy & Society at the National Cyber Security Centre, said that Proofpoint’s findings prove that scammers choose to:

“regularly exploit well-known, trusted brands for their own personal gain” and that these messages “can be very hard to spot”. 

McAfee’s VP, Antony Demetriades, said that Proofpoint’s findings show that:

“Following nearly 18 months of lockdowns, working from home, and store closures, it’s not surprising that we’ve seen an increase in online criminals tapping into consumer online shopping habits with fake parcel delivery scams.  Scams, fraudulent emails and texts are a common tactic used by online criminals, as it enables them to target a large number of consumers with the same text or email, with the aim of gathering personal information.  These fake parcel delivery scam messages can trick consumers into visiting malicious websites that can be used to install malware or steal personal or financial information and passwords” he said, adding that “it’s also important to remember that official organisations will never ask for personal or financial information via text, phone or email”. 

Katy Worobec, Managing Director of Economic Crime at UK Finance, said:

“Criminals are experts at impersonating a range of organisations and have capitalised on the pandemic, knowing that many of us will be ordering goods online and awaiting parcel deliveries at home. ”

“We are urging people to … always stop and think whenever you get a text message out of the blue before parting with your information or money. Always avoid clicking on links in a text message in case it’s a scam and forward any suspected scam text messages to 7726… so that the criminals responsible can be brought to justice.”

IPS Advice

  • Be very cynical and suspicious of any text message you receive with a link to a website in it. We advise that your default position should be one of doubt and your default course of action should be ‘do nothing’. Don’t rush into clicking or giving away any information.
  • If you are expecting a parcel these messages should normally be useful updates that it is on its way. If they are asking you to do anything, then leave the text message and log on to the website where you ordered the goods and check on the status of the delivery. Go ahead and contact the company from there rather than responding to a text or using any of the information in it.
  • If the message is asking you to pay any fees upfront, then delete the message and forget about it.
  • You can also forward a text to 7726 to help the country learn more about these trends and help the fight back against the scammers.

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