The five tell-tale signs in spotting scam texts: From ‘your eBay order has been despatched’ to ‘you have a new direct debit’… how to tell the fake from the real messages – and the genius iPhone trick to filter them out for good

  • Fraudsters are now using avenues such as ‘traditional’ SMS and text messages
  • You can filter messages from unknown senders and you won’t get notifications 

Fraudsters are becoming ever more sophisticated in the ways they can con people out of their precious savings.

From fake eBay order despatches and ticket fraud to text messages claiming a new direct debit has been set up and WhatsApp scam messages.

Recognising the tell-tale signs someone is trying to scam you and learning how to check if a message you have received is genuine is becoming increasingly important.

The National Cyber Security Centre offers guidance on how to recognise emails, texts, websites, adverts or phone calls that are trying to scam you.

Fraudsters are becoming more sophisticated in the ways they con you out of your precious savings

Scams often feature one or more of these tell-tale signs: authority, urgency, emotion, scarcity and current events. 

HOW TO SPOT SCAM MESSAGES OR CALLS

Scams often feature one or more of these tell-tale signs.

Authority

Is the message claiming to be from someone official? For example, your bank, doctor, a solicitor, or a government department. Criminals often pretend to be important people or organisations to trick you into doing what they want.

Urgency

Are you told you have a limited time to respond (such as ‘within 24 hours’ or ‘immediately’)? Criminals often threaten you with fines or other negative consequences.

Emotion

Does the message make you panic, fearful, hopeful or curious? Criminals often use threatening language, make false claims of support, or tease you into wanting to find out more.

Scarcity

Is the message offering something in short supply, like concert tickets, money or a cure for medical conditions? Fear of missing out on a good deal or opportunity can make you respond quickly.

Current events

Are you expecting to see a message like this? Criminals often exploit current news stories, big events or specific times of year (like tax reporting) to make their scam seem more relevant to you.

Source: National Cyber Security Centre

A useful setting on Apple iPhones can filter out phishing emails and unwanted scam messages.

With iMessage, you can filter messages from unknown senders, and you won’t get notifications from them. 

All you need to do is go to Settings > Messages, scroll down to Message Filtering, then turn on Filter Unknown Senders. 

When this setting is on, you can only see messages from people who aren’t in your contacts when you go to Filters > Unknown Senders. 

However, it is important to note that you can’t open any links in a message from an unknown sender until you add the sender to your contacts or reply to the message.

In the Messages app, you can also block unwanted messages from a specific person or number.

In a Messages conversation, tap the name or number at the top of the conversation.

Tap the info button, scroll down, then tap Block this Caller.

To view and manage your list of blocked contacts and phone numbers, go to Settings > Messages > Blocked Contacts.

When you use iMessage, you can report spam messages to Apple. 

Depending on your carrier and country or region, you can also report spam you receive with SMS and MMS.

In the list of messages, touch and hold the spam message, then tap Report Junk. 

Or, if you’ve opened the message, scroll to the bottom of the message, tap Report Junk, then tap Delete and Report Junk.

The sender’s information and the message are sent to Apple and the message is permanently deleted from your device.

Reporting junk or spam doesn’t prevent the sender from sending messages, but you can block the number to stop receiving them.

It was previously reported that fraudsters are using fake Apple Pay, Evri and NHS links in an attempt to scam Britons into revealing their bank details. 

With iMessage, you can filter messages from unknown senders, and you won’t get notifications from them

Last year, EE revealed that they block up to one million international scam calls every day. 

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One man shared a screenshot of two texts he received from the same number that were claiming to be from different companies.

This comes after it emerged that Britain has become the fraud capital of the world.

Nigel Lingham-Sutch received a message saying that his Apple Pay had been suspended and telling him to click on a link to continue using contactless.

Just over a week later he got a text from the same number, this time claiming to be from delivery company Evri, formerly Hermes, asking him to click on a link to reschedule a delivery.  

Mr Lingham-Sutch said he thankfully did not click on the links as he doesn’t use Apple Pay and was not expecting a delivery so he knew they must be fake. 

But he said they ‘could appear genuine’ to people without awareness of phishing scams.

Nigel Lingham-Sutch said he got suspicious when he got two texts from the same number that were claiming to be from different companies (pictured)

Sue Hedges, 58, said she did fall for the Evri scam, paying a £1.45 fee to ‘rearrange’ her delivery and then giving out her details over the phone, thinking it was a genuine call from NatWest. 

READ MORE: The 27 iPhone hacks to make your life easier: From signing documents, to hiding unused apps to erasing text with the shake of your hand to taking a photo when your storage is already full

She said she was fortunately able to to cancel her card before any money was taken but worries about ‘older more vulnerable people’ who are more likely to fall victim as ‘scams get more sophisticated’. 

Another person said they had received a text claiming to be from the NHS which said the recipient had been in close contact with someone who had Covid-19.

When she clicked on the link it asked for bank details to pay £1 for a PCR test and because the recipient was concerned about putting her 92-year-old mother at risk she tried to order the test before she realised it was a scam and cancelled her card.

John Whitney said he frequently gets emails claiming to be McAfee or Norton telling him that his antivirus software has expired, while Valerie Bentley said she deleted an scam email from Yahoo which asked her to click on a link to accept their updated terms and conditions.

Others said they had nearly fallen for scam texts claiming to be from Santander and PayPal but could tell they were fake from typos in the messages.

HOW TO REPORT A SCAM TEXT MESSAGE

Most phone providers are part of a scheme that allows customers to report suspicious text messages for free by forwarding it to 7726

If you forward a text to 7726, your provider can investigate the origin of the text and arrange to block or ban the sender, if it’s found to be malicious.

iPhone or iPad: How to forward a text message:

You can also take a screenshot or screen recording of the text message and send it to us at [email protected].

Why you should report suspicious text messages

The purpose of a scam text message is often to get you to click a link. This will take you to a website which criminals use to download viruses to your computer, or steal passwords or other personal information. This is sometimes known as ‘phishing’.

Reporting a suspicious text is free and only takes a minute. By reporting, you can:

  • reduce the amount of scam texts you receive
  • make yourself a harder target for scammers
  • protect others from cyber crime online

Source: National Cyber Security Centre

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