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Coronavirus: Messaging scams spike during pandemic

Lucy Harley-McKeown
·2-min read
Sunderland UK 9th October 2019 Close up of three TSB cash machines or ATMs in a row.
Photo: Getty

The coronavirus pandemic has prompted a spike in “smishing” message attacks, said high street bank TSB.

Alongside this, a study conducted by the bank found four in five people struggle to spot messaging scams.

TSB conducted an experiment with 2,000 people, 18% of which were able to spot all bogus messages sent to them in a series of 20 emails and texts from third parties.

10 of the messages were genuine communications and a further 10 were imitating companies.

Only 9% of younger adults achieved a full score in the experiment, showing those aged 18 to 24 are particularly vulnerable to falling for a scam.

Over a third (37%) of people generally indicated that they would respond to at least one of the bogus messages claiming to be from their bank, rising to two-fifths (41%) of 18 to 24-year-olds.

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Telltale signs that a message is not genuine may include spelling errors, links to websites that are not official and messages that compel the reader to take action urgently.

Another warning sign is announcements that would never usually be made over text, such as a tax refund or a penalty notice.

TSB has its own “fraud refund guarantee”. This returns money lost by customers when they are innocent victims of fraud.

The bank is also encouraging people to report scams, by forwarding text messages for free to 7726, and emails to

TSB found that concerns over fraud remain high, with a fifth (19%) of people saying they are concerned that a family member could be defrauded during the coronavirus pandemic.

Ashley Hart, head of fraud at TSB, said: “Unfortunately, fraudsters are becoming increasingly clever in using technology such as text messages to impersonate banks and other companies, all to trick people out of their hard-earned money.

“Our findings show how convincing these messages can appear, and highlight a worrying proportion of people who could be caught out.

“The emotional and financial impact of fraud can be devastating – which is why we reimburse all our customers should they ever fall victim and invest in partnerships with police forces to hunt down the criminals behind these attacks.”

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