31-03-2020 10:50 - edited 06-08-2020 16:54
Received a suspicious SMS or Email? There's no need to contact us. See below hints and tips for spotting these scams, and what to do with them.
We often see reports from customers who believe that they may be at risk from fraudsters trying to dupe them into sharing their personal information. These types of scams are known as phishing or smishing – a form of fraud which impersonates a company in order to steal sensitive information such as login details. Unfortunately, in today’s world, these scams are all too common, generally targeting individuals and large organisations across different sectors by imitating all kinds of company communications. We’ve pulled together some information to help you identify these scams and keep your information safe.
What is it?
Phishing and Smishing is when fraudsters attempt to get hold of sensitive information such as usernames, passwords and credit card details by pretending to be a trustworthy source in emails (Phishing) or texts (Smishing). These scams work by sending you an email or text that looks like it’s from your bank, service provider or other company. The email/text will ask you to visit a fake website that looks real. The site will have a form asking for personal information like usernames, passwords and bank account or pin numbers.
What am I looking for?
As with many scams, it begins with an email or text. The notification can, in some instances, purport to be a bill notification from us and can look very credible. It may detail an unusually high balance and include a link to ‘view your bill’. This messaging is designed to panic recipients into clicking the link to see how they’ve run up such a large bill. Instead, clicking the link will either direct you to a fake website or in some cases, download Malware to your computer. The most common type of phishing email will direct you to a fake website and ask you to enter your login details. Malware can be used for a number of things – for example, it could record your keystrokes, enabling fraudsters to piece together personal information and login details for other sites.
Signs of a Phishing or Smishing Scam
It’s often easy to spot a scam. Be on the lookout for:
- Spelling mistakes
- A ‘from’ email address that doesn’t match the company or organisation, or a text sent from an unfamiliar sender, such as a mobile number
- Demands that you take action straight away or risk having your account suspended
- A generic ‘dear customer’ header
- Suspect links with extra letters, numbers or substitutions. For example, a phishing scam trying to imitate O2 might replace the letter ‘O’ with the number zero
- Requests for sensitive data like usernames, passwords, D.O.B etc.
Here are some examples of Phishing emails:
Here are some examples of Smishing texts:
What to do
If you’re suspicious about an email you’ve received please send it onto our team to be looked into. DO NOT click on any links. It’s important that we see examples of phishing emails and websites so we can investigate and shut down scammers. To report a suspicious email or website:
- Create a new email draft with ‘Phishing’ as the subject
- Attach the suspicious email
- Send to firstname.lastname@example.org
To report a suspicious text forward the message to 7726. You may get an automated response thanking you for the report and giving you further instructions if needed. You will not be charged for sending texts to 7726.
- For more information about phishing from our support pages, click HERE.
- For more information and advice on how to safeguard against fraud, visit the Fraud Advisory Panel.
- For more information on spam texts click here.
AUGUST 2020 UPDATE
Since creating this thread/guide on spotting scams, phishing and smishing, we have seen some recent criminal activity that we wanted to update you on to ensure you remain vigilant and don't give these scammers a chance to steal money or information from you. Please see the update here.
on 31-03-2020 10:52
06-08-2020 16:51 - edited 06-08-2020 17:14
AUGUST 2020 UPDATE
I wanted to share some recent examples of phishing, smishing and scams in general. All of the advice in the original post further up is still correct and up-to-date, and you should always maintain vigilance when you're unsure on the legitimacy of any message you receive. The information below is purely to update you on some of the new techniques we're seeing at O2, with the hope it helps more of our customers stay safe and secure.
Firstly, a quick update on the terminology:
- Phishing: When fraudsters attempt to get hold of sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details, by pretending to be a trustworthy source in an email
- Smishing: Same as the above, but when it happens via a text message instead
- Vishing: Same as above, but when it happens via a phone call instead
Before we get into this one, it's important to know what 'Wangiri' means. In Japanese, it translates to 'one ring and drop'. The purpose of this scam is that you'll receive a phone call from some unusual or obscure international number, which will typically terminate before you ever get a chance to answer it (which you never should).
Unsuspecting customers who see a missed call may not think twice about calling back... What if it's a family member on holiday? This is exactly what these scammers are hoping for and as soon as you call that number back, bang, that's you just been stung a hefty premium rate call charge. What's O2 doing about these? We block numbers are soon as we become aware of them, and have investigated them. In many cases we'll have outbound blocked the number before you even receive the dodgy call, but these scammers are all around the world and new numbers are setup often, so this kind of scam is unfortunately likely to exist in the world for as long as there are phones.
Recent smishing examples
Smishing, like above, is likely to be something that will always exist, so it's important that customers on all networks, all around the world, remain vigilant and be able to spot the signs of a smishing attempt to ensure they don't get caught off guard and find themselves with extortionate charges due to falling for these scams.
See the screenshot below - this is a common example of the kind of smishing report we're receiving regularly, with the only thing changing from text-to-text being the URL. Don't worry about the number - that's the number of the scammer, and not of any customer.
There are several things to note from this smishing example:
- The number. Had this text been real, it would show as from O2 and not from what appears to be a normal mobile number
- Quite often, the dates won't align. If I know my bill comes out on the 1st of the month for example and I got this text mid-month, that should set alarm bells that it may not be legit
- The URL. One look at this example as it's quite obvious that it's not the O2 website.
- Typos or grammatical errors. There's nothing untowards about the layout of this text, though if you look at the last O2 billing text you received, you'll see there's a space between 'O2' and ':' at the start of the text. If you ever see a sloppy typo or similar, this should be a red flag and indicate something sinister may be going on
Flyers and other scams
Unfortunately the list goes on. Scammers and criminals will do anything for an easy £ and as their desparation grows, so too will the complexity of their scams. Other recent scams we've witnessed have been:
- Flyers or leaflets: It's unusual for a scammer to go to this much effort, but we recently spotted this scam circulating in the Camden area. If it's too good to be true, it normally is. The website itself should also ring alarm bells, as all of our offers are on the main o2.co.uk website.
- Email or website surveys: If you've received an email purporting to be from O2, either offering something in exchange for doing a survey, or promoting a stock clearance, then this is a phishing scam and is not something that we do.
- Website popup surveys: Though I don't have a screenshot example to share, you should also be weary of any pop-ups you see when browsing the internet. If you're browsing the internet and ramdonly get an O2 pop-up or advert that says you've been selected at random to win something, or if you answer a few questions you'll win a prize, then these are scams. These are not from O2 and we have nothing to do with them, and you should never click on these or give them any information. Ever.
- Fake O2 customer services: This isn't new, but a very recent example caught our eye that we wanted to share due to some convincing aspects of it. If you are contacting O2 via Social media, then you should ONLY TRUST THE OFFICIAL PROFILES BELOW. If you're asked to follow a random Twitter profile that isn't @O2, it's likely a scam. We will also never ask you to initiate an SMS to a shortcode number.
- Official O2 customer services on Social Media:
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/o2. @O2Sports and @O2Music are also genuine, as is @TelefonicaUK - though these aren't 'customer service' channels.
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/o2uk/
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/o2uk/
- In the screenshots below, here's what's happening... In the first one, the fake account would wait for the customer to reply to them and then eventually, the account would ask the customer to text 'Y' to a certain premium SMS shortcode, in order to authenticate themselves. In screenshot 2, it shows what happens if you follow this action through.
on 06-08-2020 20:56
So so many ways to steal your money!