How to protect yourself from “smishing”

With scams on the rise, it’s vital to educate yourself about “smishing” texts – what they are and how to stay safe

“Smishing” refers to phishing attacks, or attempted scams, conducted over SMS texts or messaging apps such as WhatsApp – and it’s on the rise in the UK.

Scammers know how to impersonate legitimate organisations. These can include your phone network, bank, or delivery company (or even one of your close friends or relatives). Scammers can skilfully nudge you towards clicking links, sharing personal information or transferring money.

Losing money is the last thing anyone needs right now. The criminal gangs behind scams are constantly developing more sophisticated methods – which means we need to be more sophisticated in our responses, too. Here’s what you need to know about keeping yourself safe from smishing.

person holding their phone

Watch out for signs

We’ll never text, call or email to ask you for a one-time code, password or other security information for your O2 account. If you receive a text that looks like it’s from us and requests any of these details, it’s malicious and should be reported (scroll down to learn how).

Other tell-tale signs of smishing messages include spelling errors and an urgent tone telling you to act or call immediately.

Watch out for web links, contact names or email addresses that are incorrect, look strange or use substitute characters. For example, a text from 02 (using the number zero, rather than the letter O). And remember: scammers are trying to exploit people’s desire to save money at the moment. If a deal feels too good to be true, it probably is.

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Do your checks

Not sure whether a mobile phone message is authentic? Don’t click any links or follow the instructions in the text. Instead, see if you can independently verify the information in the message. Look up phone numbers or email addresses to see whether they’re legitimate. Confirm the message’s contents by checking with the organisation directly.

For example, if you’re expecting a parcel, you could be vulnerable to delivery scam texts containing links to “track your order”. But you should be able to check your package’s status on the verified company’s website rather than clicking links in a text.

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Report immediately

Forward suspicious texts to 7726 immediately, including the message’s contents and the number it came from. The 7726 number is linked to all the UK’s phone networks. It means the scam number can be blocked and investigated.

You can also send an email containing details of the smishing message to (the same address can be used for reporting scam calls and emails). And consistently report attempted HMRC scams via the dedicated government website.

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Reach out for help

No one is immune from falling victim to smishing scams. Worried that you’ve clicked a suspicious link or shared information with someone you shouldn’t have? Don’t panic but act quickly.

Contact your bank, change all relevant passwords, and monitor related accounts to check for fraudulent activity. If you’re worried fraudsters have already accessed your O2 account, reset your My O2 password and get in touch with us as soon as possible so we can help.

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Keep up to date

Scam methods are constantly evolving, so staying one step ahead is essential. Updating your smartphone’s software is easy and free. It ensures your device has the latest technology to help keep fraudsters out, so read up on how to install software updates with O2.

For more advice on keeping yourself safe, check out the security hub on our website. You can also read a helpful blog from Liam Rawsthorne, Head of Fraud at Virgin Media O2, explaining more about how we’re helping you spot scammers. Together, we can beat fraud.