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The COVID-19 pandemic led to record numbers of people shopping online in 2020. Were you one of them?

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From the weekly grocery shop to Christmas shopping and everything in between, pandemic restrictions and lockdowns have resulted in more people than ever embracing online shopping and communicating via their phones and devices. 

Unfortunately, cyber crime has also surged in Northern Ireland since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, with smishing attempts increasing dramatically.

What is smishing?

‘Smishing’, or SMS phishing, is a scam by text message. Fraudsters impersonate a legitimate company in an attempt to steal your information.

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Had an unexpected text recently? Think twice.

Scammers can insert fraudulent texts into legitimate message threads between a company and its customer, for example a parcel delivery company. It’s important to be alert to all texts you receive, especially if they’re unexpected or ask for an action such as clicking a link or calling a number.

Even without sharing any information, just clicking on a link in one of these texts can enable fraudsters to gain control over your phone and access sensitive information.

Police are aware of a new phishing text message scam circulating telling people that they are ‘eligible’ for the Covid 19 vaccination. The scam message reads “we have identified that you are eligible to apply for your vaccine” and links to a convincing, but fake, NHS page which then asks for bank details.

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If you receive a text or email that asks you to click on a link or for you to provide information, such as your name, credit card or bank details, it's a likely to be a scam. Scams can come in many forms and this one is just the latest attempt by fraudsters to exploit the pandemic for financial gain.

Protect yourself by following this advice:

•Do not open attachments or click on links in emails or texts from numbers you don’t know.

•Never give out your personal information, banking details or passwords in response to an email, text or phone call without verifying that the caller is who they say they are.

•Block any numbers you find suspicious.

•Always go to a website directly, by typing out the address yourself, when logging into an account. Do not click on links.

•Keep an eye out for spelling mistakes in messages and emails

How can you help others?

You can help your family and friends to stay safe and secure from smishing attacks by sharing information about how to spot smishing attempts, and by encouraging them to secure their mobile devices.

It’s especially important to help those who could be vulnerable to smishing, such as the young and elderly.

Visit NICyber Security Centre for more advice and information.

You can find advice on how to secure your mobile devices and learn about other common cyber threats.


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