Smishing: Police make arrests in crackdown on scam text messages


Police have made eight arrests following operations targeting individuals suspected of sending out “smishing” texts, which aim to steal personal information and financial details by directing recipients to fake versions of trusted organisations’ websites, such as the Royal Mail.

Operations across London, Coventry, Birmingham and Colchester resulted in eight men being arrested on suspicion of fraud, according to City of London police.

SEE: Cybersecurity: Let’s get tactical (ZDNet/TechRepublic special feature) | Download the free PDF version (TechRepublic)

The eight suspects are believed to be involved with a smishing campaign which sent out scam texts claiming to be from Royal Mail, claiming the recipient needed to pay an outstanding postage fee for a parcel or enter their details to rearrange a delivery. 

Officers from the Dedicated Card and Payment Crime Unit (DCPCU), a specialist City of London and Metropolitan police unit, worked in partnership with Royal Mail and the telecoms industry as part of a ‘week of action’ which included the arrests.

Devices suspected of being used in smishing scams have been seized by police and records of stolen financial details have been identified – which will allow banks to inform customers that they’ve fallen victim to fraud. 

“The success of these operations shows how through our close collaboration with Royal Mail, the financial services sector, and mobile phone networks, we are cracking down on the criminals ruthlessly targeting the public,” said Detective Chief Inspector Gary Robinson, the head of DCPCU.

“Ongoing investigations are now underway and we will continue to work together to bring those committing smishing scams to justice.”

SEE: My stolen credit card details were used 4,500 miles away. I tried to find out how it happened

Seven of those arrested have been released under investigation, with one suspect charged and remanded into custody ahead of their court appearance. Investigations are still ongoing and City of London police said they expect to make further arrests and charges.

Often these phishing messages contain a link to a fake version of a legitimate website which ask for usernames and passwords or even bank details. There’s been a large rise in SMS phishing attacks over the last few months, particularly with messages claiming to be from a delivery company, as many people have been doing more online shopping during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Members of the public can help investigations into smishing campaigns by forwarding suspicious texts to 7726, free of charge.

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