Online Crooks Trying to Dupe Citizens with COVID-19 'Smishing' Scams

UK Finance said criminals are increasingly using text messages to impersonate trusted bodies in an attempt to gain access to personal data or funds. It urged consumers to remain vigilant and avoid clicking on links in any unsolicited text messages.

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An umbrella body representing over 250 firms from the UK's finance and banking industries has urged citizens to be vigilant of SMS phishing messages aimed at taking advantage of the coronavirus crisis.   

In a March 30 press release, UK Finance said criminals are using "smishing" to impersonate banks, government ministries or other organizations in an attempt to gain access to funds or personal information.

The unsolicited texts frequently say that the recipients are being issued fines or offered payments, according to the group.

"Often the messages will include a link to a fake website that is designed to trick people into giving away their financial and personal information such as bank details, passwords and credit card numbers. Criminals are also using a technique called 'spoofing', which can make a message appear in a chain of texts alongside previous genuine messages from that organization," the press release said.

"UK Finance is urging consumers to avoid clicking on any links contained within text messages, and to always log into their bank account to update their information or make any legitimate payments," it added.

Katy Worobec, the group's managing director of economic crime, was quoted as saying "It’s always safer to log into your bank account directly or contact the organization on a trusted number or email such as the one on their official website." She called on citizens to "take a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information."

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