Businesses see 700% jump in smishing

Smishing attacks in the UK grew by nearly 700 per cent in six months up to the end of June 2021.

Scam text messages pretending to be from legitimate organisations such as banks, delivery companies and phone networks aim to steal consumers’ money and personal information.

In response to the rising problem, major banks and delivery companies are now adopting a new best practice guide for texting customers, devised by customer champion Which?

Proofpoint operates the 7726 text service that enables people to report spam texts for free, and collects data on those reports categorised as smishing.

Proofpoint data shows the increasing problem from the second half of 2020 to the end of the first half of the year, driven by an increase of scams since the coronavirus pandemic as fraudsters look to take advantage of shopping trends, such as people getting more deliveries to their homes.

Reports of smishing in the UK are 15 times higher than reports of smishing in the US, according to Proofpoint.

UK data shows there is a three to one ratio of parcel smishing attacks to banking smishing attacks. Voicemail smishing – where scammers send a text pretending to have a link to a voicemail - is also a more recent technique.

Which? research shows that 71 per cent of people say they don’t trust text messages from companies to be free from scam risks.

To help businesses protect their customers and differentiate their texts from those sent by scammers impersonating them, Which? has launched an SMS guide with support from across the banking, delivery and mobile industries.

Mobile UK, the trade body representing mobile network operators; AICES, which represents delivery companies; and Consumers International, which speaks for consumer organisations in over 100 countries, are among those throwing their support behind the initiative.

In addition to these organisations, big delivery companies Hermes and DPD and banks Barclays and TSB have already agreed to adopt Which?’s ten-point guide.

The guide recommends avoiding hyperlinks where possible, not including phone numbers and protecting company SMS Sender IDs so they cannot be spoofed by fraudsters.

Rocio Concha, Which? director of policy and advocacy, said: “Businesses must play their part to protect people from scams. Our SMS guide aims to help organisations differentiate their texts from the scammers impersonating them so consumers can more easily recognise scam SMS messages.

“We welcome the commitment by the businesses who have signed up to our guide and hope this will encourage more organisations to consider how they can better protect their customers from fraud.”

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