As millions shop online for Christmas, they are being targeted by fraudsters sending scam texts and emails. These claim to be from the courier service DPD or Royal Mail, and say the firm has been unable to deliver an item.
Now highly prevalent, they feature a link to a website where the receiver is asked to input their bank card details to pay “extra” postage costs and told that if they do nothing their item will be returned to the sender.
A couple of days later the victim receives a call telling them their bank account has been compromised and that they should transfer the money to a “secure” account, which is actually under the criminal’s control.
This week the national fraud reporting centre Action Fraud said in the first week of December it had heard from 35 victims who had lost a combined total of £103,000 to the DPD scam.
One message, claiming to be from DPD, and seen by Guardian Money, says: “Due to a lack of complete address information, we have been unable to deliver your parcel number: 113375910844557. We require additional details to attempt redelivery of this parcel, as the address provided appears to be incomplete.”
It goes on to offer collection from its Acton depot and warns that fees will apply for any arranged delivery.
DPD told the Guardian that it would never ask people to send money for parcels to be redirected or redelivered, adding: “Nor would we ask consumers to give us their bank details.”
It has a page on its website with an example of a scam email and tips on how to spot a message that has been fraudulently sent in its name.
A less convincing email, claiming to be from Royal Mail, states, in rather poor English: “Your Package is stopped at our post. A £2.95 shipping cost have not been paid.”
UK Finance, the organisation representing banks, says consumers should avoid clicking on links in emails and always access websites by typing the addresses separately into a web browser.
Katy Worobec, its head of economic crime, says: “With more of us than ever expecting to send and receive gifts by post this Christmas, criminals are looking to cash in.
“Often they will claim a parcel hasn’t been delivered as a way to trick people into giving away their personal and financial details, which are then used to commit fraud.”
She says customers tricked into clicking on links in this way will often then receive a call from the criminal pretending to be from their bank’s fraud team, trying to persuade them to move their money to a new account or reveal their passcodes.
“We are urging people not to give a gift to fraudsters this Christmas,” she says. “Always take a moment to stop and think before parting with your information or money, and avoid clicking on links in an email or text message in case it’s a scam.”
Anyone receiving one of these texts can report it to their mobile phone provider by forwarding the message to 7726, while suspicious emails can be sent to the National Cyber Security Centre via email@example.com.
• Scammers have also turned their attention to the Covid vaccination programme, with reports that people have been offered the chance to get the jab ahead of the queue. Approaches have been made by text and from a recorded voice message by phone.
In each case, the recipient is asked to respond by clicking a link in the text message or by pressing 1 when receiving the call. They are then asked to give personal information, as well as financial details to book their vaccination.
Consumers are being reminded that the NHS’s Covid vaccines are free and there is nothing anyone can do to get ahead in the queue.