If you get a text message purporting to be from Royal Mail, treat that thing with extreme caution.
In recent weeks, a rising number of people in the UK have reported receiving suspicious, fraudulent texts posing as the British postal service, which advise that a “settlement” or “shipping fee” will need to be paid in order to receive a package. The message includes a link to a legitimate-seeming website which then asks for personal details, including bank details, so the payment can be taken.
Here are two examples of the type of messages going round, in screenshots taken by Mashable. In classic phishing form (in which scammers trick you into handing over personal information via email or text), you’ll notice red flags like a request for immediate payment with deadline, and the unofficial-looking URL with random dashes and extra words before the .com.
Actor Emmeline Hartley, who was on the receiving end of the scam, shared her experience on Twitter, including what happened to her after she’d inputted her bank details after following the link in the text.
I mentioned yesterday that I’d been scammed out of every penny I had. Thought I’d post what happened in case it helps anyone avoid being in the same position. Please save the lectures, I don’t think it’s possible for me to feel any stupider 🤦🏻♀️ #royalmailscam #safeaccountscam pic.twitter.com/YRrh8W6uje
— Emmeline Hartley (@EmmelineHartley) March 21, 2021
“I got a phone call from Barclays to say that someone had tried to set up direct debits in my account to Vodafone and Curries/PC World,” wrote Hartley. “They said a transaction of £300 had also been attempted to Argos. They took me through security before cancelling my cards and issuing new ones, saying they’d take 3-5 days to arrive. They then added that, because I’d also given away my sort code and account number along with my address and other details, it put my online banking at risk, meaning they could access all my Barclays accounts including my business account and ISA. They therefore needed to generate a new sort code and account number, which they did and gave to me over the phone.”
Unfortunately, the person contacting Hartley was actually part of the scam. After asking her to transfer all of her money into the “new account” he’d set up, he then cut the call short. Hartley is now in contact with Barclays fraud team to try and reclaim the money. Mashable has reached out to Hartley for an update.
Those hit with the text messages have been posting on Twitter, hoping to warn others away. The scam comes at a difficult moment for the UK, with the nation still in lockdown and many relying more heavily than usual on delivery services.
A Royal Mail spokesperson confirmed to Mashable that the company is aware of the scam, and sent across the following statement:
“Royal Mail will only send email and SMS notifications to customers in cases where the sender has requested this when using our trackable products that offer this service. The only time we would ask customers to make a payment by email or by SMS is in instances where a customs fee is due.
In such cases, we would also leave a grey card telling customers that there’s a Fee to Pay before we can release the item. This would apply either to an international customs fee or to a surcharge for an underpaid item. This card may arrive later than the email or SMS.
If you receive a text message from Royal Mail, it’s worth checking the official app or website with your tracking number, or reaching out to them directly, to confirm its authenticity. You can check the Royal Mail website for examples of current scams. Suspicious text messages can also be reported to the government‘s National Cyber Security Centre.
If you’ve unfortunately been the victim of such a payment scam, you should contact your bank immediately if you’ve given out your details, and you can report the incident to your local police station, to Action Fraud (for England, Wales, and Northern Ireland) or Police Scotland (for Scotland).