Fake delivery scams have soared during the pandemic with more than 60% of Britons reporting receiving at least one such text in the past year, research from the consumer rights group Which? has revealed.
The scams are so prevalent that even entirely new mobile numbers, which have not been shared, are receiving fraudulent texts within days of new accounts being created.
Thanks to the pandemic, e-commerce has boomed in Britain, in turn making fake deliveries a fruitful avenue for scammers seeking to trick unsuspecting shoppers into handing over personal details and draining their bank accounts. The texts, which usually claim that a package has missed its delivery window or requires a fee to be paid, are often the first toehold in an attack chain that can result in victims being tricked into draining their entire bank accounts.
While 70% of those who reported receiving such a scam text said they had realised what it was immediately, one in 30 said they had lost money as a result of being tricked.
To test the reach of the scams, Which? created four new mobile phone accounts – one with each of the UK’s biggest phone networks. Within two weeks, two of the numbers had received scam text messages, despite never having been used before.
“Our research shows how fraudsters have bombarded Britain with scam delivery texts on an industrial scale as they try to exploit the unprecedented conditions of the pandemic,” said Adam French, a consumer rights expert at the organisation.
“Couriers and the telecoms industry must take further steps to protect consumers, by making it harder for fraudsters to exploit systemic weaknesses to reach potential victims, and by making people more aware of how to spot such scams.
“In the meantime, people can sign up to Which?’s scam alert service to keep themselves, their friends and family informed about the latest tactics used by fraudsters.”
In the first week of December 2020, Action Fraud, the UK-wide fraud reporting centre, said it had heard from 35 victims who lost a total of £103,000 to a single scam campaign falsely claiming to come from DPD.
Katy Worobec, the head of economic crime at the industry body UK Finance, said: “Always take a moment to stop and think before parting with your information or money, and avoid clicking on links in an email or text message in case it’s a scam.”
According to research from the identity protection firm Callsign, a quarter of internet users globally reported receiving more messages from fraudsters than friends and family. When spam emails were taken into account, the average user received more than 1,000 scam messages a year, the company said.