How to avoid being scammed this summer

When you’re relaxing this summer, don’t let your guard down when it comes to fraudsters, with our guide to common text scams

Summer is about letting it all hang loose. The weather’s great, the vibes are immaculate, and normally our biggest concerns are if we’ve got enough sunscreen on (you don’t – put on more) or if we can get a food delivery driver to find us in a park (probably not, but it’s got to be worth a try).

The relaxed attitude that comes with the sunny season is why it’s important to remember that while you might be taking a break, the scammers never do. Because summer is a period when you may let your guard down is precisely why fraudsters use this time of the year to strike.

A quick O2 refresher: we’ll never contact you asking for one-time passcodes, passwords and PINs. We won’t ever ask for personal information like your bank details or security information you’ve set up on your O2 account, either. And when we say never, we mean never – not by phone, text or email.

Scammers will stop at nothing when targeting their victims, and it’s more important than ever to stay vigilant. Don’t panic, and take time to look at any message you receive closely. If it’s from an unknown number, if it requests payment, if it’s marked as “urgent” or has something that’s out of place, it might be a scam.

Fraudsters are always trying to find new ways to trick and con us. We’ve picked out four recent spam text trends to help you identify what to look out for this summer and beyond. Plus, read on to find out how to report scams and help shut them down faster.

The Hi Mum / Hi Dad scam

The hi mum and hi dad scam

Despite the rise in new types of phishing texts, “Hi Mum/Hi Dad” messages – where scammers pretend to be someone’s child (particularly adult children) texting from a new or friend’s mobile number because their phone is broken, lost or stolen, and ask for money – continue to top the list of spam texts reported and blocked.

When people are on holidays and at festivals where a phone can get misplaced or dropped in a pool, it’s a scam that taps into believability. A typical message might read: “Hey mum my phone broke earlier today i’m so stressed out. I’ll be on this phone for a few days until i get mine fixed, save this number and reply so i know you got it xx.”

If you receive a message like this, your first port of call should be to contact your child or family member, either through their original number or an alternative contact means, like a different messaging service or private messaging on social media.

If you do reply to that message and the sender asks for money, don’t be tempted to transfer money immediately. Enquire further by asking who specifically it is by name and by calling them or asking for a voice note.

The fake delivery text scam

The fake delivery text scam

Before we head off on holiday, we’ll often expect deliveries – whether it’s new clothes or even a new passport. So when you receive a text from what looks like a well-known and trusted delivery company saying they need to redeliver your parcel, you might think about clicking on the link.

Don’t. While many delivery companies will include tracking links in their messages, even if you are expecting a parcel, a safer way of tracking its status is to use the official website of the delivery company. Alternatively, you can use the delivery company’s official app for tracking deliveries. Only download these from an official app store.

It’s worth noting that criminals are getting better at making these messages seem genuine, whether it’s including personal greetings such as your name (rather than “Dear customer”) or spoofing the company’s name in the sender information. So be extra vigilant.

Banking transactions or payment issues text scams

Banking transaction or payment issue text scam

With money flying out of your account during the holiday season, seeing a text that looks like it’s from your bank with an amount or vendor you don’t recognise may make your blood run cold. Rather than thinking the message itself is a scam, you might worry that you have already been scammed – leading you to act in haste.

While banks will send genuine query messages to alert you that they’ve detected potentially unauthorised transactions within your account, it’s always far safer to contact your bank directly, either through their official app or the phone number listed on your card or their website, rather than clicking a link in an unsolicited text.

Look out for spelling or grammatical errors, informal language and other telltale signs like links, incorrect phone numbers or requests for urgent action.

Energy efficiency scheme and grants text scams 

Energy efficiency text scams

While this isn’t strictly summer-related, there has been a significant increase in the number of fake “ECO4” energy efficiency scheme texts in recent months. These are texts sent by scammers that fraudulently use the government energy efficiency scheme and other energy bill support programmes as a ploy to trick you into handing over personal data or payment details.

You can check whether a company is verified to work on government schemes by searching for the business on TrustMark, the government-endorsed quality scheme. As with all the types of scam mentioned here, don’t click on links in texts, look out for obvious signs and, if in doubt, contact the company directly through official means.

How to report suspected scam texts

You can help stop spam messages by forwarding suspicious texts or calls for free to 7726 – which spells SPAM on an alphanumeric phone keypad – on any network.

By reporting messages, you make it easier for new trends to be identified and shut down faster. Numbers reported to us are blocked and messages are analysed to help improve the company’s firewall technology, which uses machine learning to identify new spam patterns and attempts.

In 2023 alone, 89 million scam texts were detected and stopped from reaching customers, helping to protect you from potential fraud, in part thanks to reports to 7726.

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Published: 8 July 2024