Tenfold spike in Christmas delivery scams preying on public’s ‘fear of missing out’

Christmas parcel delivery scams have risen tenfold from last year due to the increasing skill of fraudsters to exploit the public’s “fear of missing out”.

Cyber security experts have warned that criminals are preying on the anxiety felt by customers waiting for late deliveries by using “smishing” text messages to scam them out of money.

Typically, a victim will receive a text from the fraudster, purporting to be from a reputable delivery company, which will tell them they have to pay an additional charge for posting or customs.

From there, the victim will click on the attached link on the message directing them to a website which appears identical to the real delivery company.

The customer will put in their bank details to pay for the fake charges which the criminal will then use to access their account and drain their funds.

These scams are particularly effective in the run-up to Christmas as many customers will genuinely be expecting a parcel delivery on the same day they receive the message.

It is predicted that half a million delivery texts will be sent by fraudsters this week urging the public to hand over data or make false payments, according to Proofpoint, a cyber security firm.

Jacinta Tobin, the vice president of Proofpoint’s Cloudmark operations, told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme: “Messages saying you missed your personal delivery, you haven’t paid enough postage, you need to pay customs… are 10 times more than this time last year. 

“The scammers are wonderful social engineers and they know how to manipulate us. They base their attacks on fear, or fear of missing out, or fear of something bad happening. We are seeing more and more urgent measures saying ‘package will be returned unless you claim it’.

“These scammers are trying to gather information, where you live, where you bank, where you shop, so that their next attack can be even more targeted and therefore more successful.”

How to avoid online fraud

UK Finance, a trade association representing banks and other financial firms, said more than half, 55.94 per cent, of all reported smishing text messages in the final three months of this year have claimed to be from parcel delivery firms.

This has more than tripled since the same period in 2020, when 16.37 per cent bogus texts were about parcels.

Text scams tend to be more effective than email as it is easier to spot signs in the email that it is from a fake sender.

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