How to spot a scam text message

Have you received a text message congratulating you on winning a prize? Are you concerned it’s a scam?

Unfortunately, completing just one dodgy online form on a survey or competition site can result in your phone number or email address finding its way onto a list that’s illegally sold to spammers. Soon, you find yourself bombarded with phone calls about road traffic accidents and loans – and unfortunately, you may also receive scam text messages too.

The problem is with the latest batch of ‘Congratulations!’ text messages, the scammers are using your first name (and sometimes your location!) – with the idea that you’re more likely to think its genuine. These scammers hope to get you to click the links and trick you into giving them even more personal information, and sometimes to get you to subscribe to premium text message services.

Identify a scam text

A scam winning text will usually:

  • Mention your name
  • Contain a link to click
  • Mention a big brand name – Argos, Morrisons, Amazon etc.
  • Have grammar and spelling mistakes

Examples of scam winning text messages

How to identify a scam text message
How to identify a scam text message
How to identify a scam text message

Scammers can even use ‘number spoofing’ to make it look like their text has come from a genuine sender – for example, the batch of Royal Mail scam texts that are doing the rounds might be followed by a genuine message from Royal Mail about a parcel you’re expecting, to add to the confusion. Royal Mail have even posted about the below message on their website as it’s so common.

How to identify a scam text message

Identify a genuine text

A genuine winning text will usually:

  • NOT address you by name (the opposite of what you would expect in a winning email!)
  • Mention details of the prize or promoter
  • Ask you to reply to the text or email with your address details

Examples of genuine winning text messages

How to identify a scam text message
How to identify a scam text message
How to identify a scam text message

Of these, the final example probably looks the most like a scam text – there’s no mention of the promoter plus there’s a suspicious link to click (it’s not obvious that mcvst.com is short for ‘McVities Sweeter Together’, the promotion name!) However, looking back in my iPhone message history I can see that I did text an entry to that competition, so it is a genuine win.

To confuse matters, occasionally genuine promoters like Tesco make mistakes in their text messages too. They tell you you’ve won, and ask you to email them – but cut short the email address! In that case, you could always ask on a comping forum (or group like Lucky Learners) if anyone has had the same message. A lot of text comps have multiple prizes, so there are likely to be other winners who can advise!

What to do if you suspect a scam message

  • Look back in your message history – did you send any competition keywords to the number?
  • Check the number the message has come from – search for it on Google along with ‘scam’ in case it’s already been reported
  • Don’t click the link
  • Don’t reply (this tells the scammer that the number is active)
  • Share a screenshot in your competition group or forum and ask for advice

If you’re certain it’s a scam, you can forward the message – along with the sender’s number – to 7726 (spelling SPAM on your keypad) to report it. You can also register a complaint with the ICO by ringing their helpline on 0303 123 1113 or online at www.ico.org.uk

For more advice on reporting scam and spam text messages visit the Ofcom website.

Scam text messages and emails are disappointing and frustrating, and are one of the reasons new compers give up the hobby straight away! But be assured that most competitions are genuine, and it’s just a small number of scammers out there trying to spoil our fun.

If in doubt, only enter competitions on the websites and social media pages of brands you trust – and never tick a box that says your details will be passed on to other companies!

You can also read my blog posts with advice on spotting Facebook and email scams:

15 Responses

  1. Norest says:

    Hie l have recieve a txt massage saying my number have won 500.000 pounds from bbcawards2020 and l have contact on ticket number (9-3-4/13) via BBCAWARD2020@africamail.com

  2. Elizabeth A Goode says:

    Is there any way to stop the ads that are apparently proliferating because of having answered (and paid for) some???

    • Di says:

      Is this adverts coming by text message Elizabeth? If it’s from the same number you can block the number – and you can also copy the original message and text it to 7726 (which spells out SPAM) – this tells your provider it’s spam. The advice is never to text STOP as that encourages more automated messages.

  3. Tyrone says:

    Hello I got a text message from a name called clients saying hey with my name saying we would like to thank you for always paying on time by giving you this small gift and then I had to click on a link so I did and it came up with my broadband I’m with saying that I’ve been chosen to receive a free gift worth £200 or more all I had to do is fill out a servey and pick what I wanted so I did then it told me I’d have to pay £1 shipping fee so I paid that and it said congratulations your I phone 11 pro will be with you in 3 working days I was wondering if it’s a scam or now

  4. I got this message
    “ Jacqueline – this is your last reminder from Boots to confirm your 4th place item of our anniversary draw (22/10): http://trgti.com/1w6i”
    It has no name, phone number, email or contact info so I’m presuming it’s a scam. How can I block receiving them?

  5. Hi iv recently won 2 prizes with Tesco in their text to win comps, i did enter them with received the message from the same number, problem is that i replied to the link both times but haven’t heard anything back since. Can anyone advise how long it takes to hear back from them, its been a few days.

  6. Carol says:

    Text message Scam from Amazon claiming won third prize in their anniversary prize draw from 07540751933

  7. Deltahalo241 says:

    Just had one like this on my phone, supposedly from Tesco, said I won second prize in their monthly competition. First red flag for me was that I don’t shop at Tesco and haven’t entered any competitions recently

  8. MICHAEL SAUNDERS says:

    I had the same one as Julie Feathers. I take it the Tesco text is not genuine.

  9. Julie Feathers says:

    just got one from Tesco supposidly won 4th place asking to fill in 3 questions and offering an Iphone have to pay £2 delivery click http://i6q.org/3nrOFS

  10. Stephanie Crimes says:

    This is one of my biggest fears, being a fairly new comper. Thankfully I’ve had nothing suspicious so far!

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