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
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.
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
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: