Topic: Security October 13, 2019
Author: Neil Cubley
Tags: Smishing

How to spot text message scams (smishing)

Bank of Ireland Security Zone3 MIN READ

Fraudsters are sending more and more fake text messages hoping to con people out of their money.

Fake texts that pretend to be from your bank, the Revenue, an online retailer etc.

This is also known as ‘smishing’.

This term was made up by combining SMS + ‘phishing’.

In other words, it is ‘phishing’ – where fraudsters send you fake emails hoping to defraud you – but using text messages instead of emails.

Five typical text message scams

1. ‘Your account has been suspended’

2. ‘You have a tax refund’

3. ‘We noticed unusual activity on your account’

4. ‘You’ve won a prize’

5. ‘Your package couldn’t be delivered’

Each of these types of texts, explained below, has been designed to get you to click on a link.

Don’t click.

Clicking on the link in the text may install malware on your phone which the scammers can use to steal your personal information.

It may result in unwanted charges on your phone bill.

And it may bring you to a fake website where fraudsters hope to get you to give them your personal details.

Bank of Ireland1 ‘Your account has been suspended’

Many of us use online services for banking.

Fraudsters send out fake text messages to look as if they come from banks hoping that you are a customer.

Some of these messages can even appear alongside genuine bank messages in text conversation threads but have been inserted by fraudsters.

Texts like this often say that your account has been suspended, frozen or locked knowing that this is something you would want to sort out fast.

They usually ask you to click on a link to unlock it.

Bank of IrelandThere’s one going round at the moment saying that your registered phone number has expired and asking you to click on a link to update it.

What do I do?

Don’t click on the link.

Bank of Ireland will never send you messages like this.

Don’t be rushed into responding; take your time to verify that the text is genuine.

To check if a text that looks like it came from Bank of Ireland is genuine, email us at

Bank of Ireland2 ‘You have a tax refund’

This is a common scam text sent out by fraudsters as a tax deadline approaches.

The text pretends to be from Revenue telling you that you have a refund and asking you to click on a link to claim the money.

To get your attention, it’s usually a significant sum.

There is no refund.

Clicking on the link may infect your phone with malware, increase your phone bill or take you to a fake website where the scammers hope to steal your personal details.

What do I do?

Don’t click on the link.

Revenue does not send out texts to tell taxpayers they’ve got a refund but they are aware that these fraudulent texts circulate and have published this advice*.

To check if you are genuinely due a refund from your tax office, contact them using their published contact details*.

Bank of Ireland3 ‘We noticed unusual activity on your account’

Cyber criminals sometimes send out fake security alerts.

You might get a text telling you that someone just logged into your account or used your debit or credit card to buy something online.

The text asks something like ‘was this you?’

Of course it wasn’t you, because the log in or purchase did not happen.

But it is designed to make you anxious enough to act.

To cancel the purchase or to tell your bank that you did not log in, you are asked to click on a link or to phone a number.

What do I do?

Don’t click on the link.

Bank of Ireland may text you if a transaction looks suspicious and ask you if you recognize it.

You will be asked to reply yes or no.

To check that a text from Bank of Ireland is genuine, email us at

Never use the contact details in texts like this.

Instead, use the published contact details of your bank, credit card company or internet provider.

Bank of Ireland

4 ‘You’ve won a prize’

If something sounds too good to be true it usually is.

Especially if the first you hear of it is by text or email.

Fraudsters sometimes send texts telling you that you’ve won a prize (even though you never entered a competition) or that you can claim a free gift card.

If you do click on the link you may end up on a fake website and asked to enter your personal details.

Alternatively, they may ask you to email your personal details to a fraudster’s email address.

What do I do?

Don’t click on the link, send an email or phone a number.

If the text mentions a well-known company, check that the prize is genuine with them using their published contact details.

In addition, search the internet to see if this is a known text message scam and other people have reported it.

Bank of Ireland5 ‘Your package couldn’t be delivered’

More and more of us buy online and get parcels delivered to our homes.

Sometimes we are out and we miss a delivery.

Fraudsters know this and take advantage by sending texts pretending to be from well-known couriers.

They might even send you a series of texts telling you your parcel is about to be delivered, that they tried to deliver it but couldn’t and that you can arrange re-delivery or collection by clicking on a link.

This is all part of the scam.

What do I do?

Don’t click on the link.

These texts often mention a well-known post or courier company to appear more believable.

If you want to contact them use their genuine published contact details.

I clicked on a link in a text message scam, what should I do?

If you land on a website after clicking on a link in a fraudulent text, don’t enter any personal details and close the website immediately.

Contact Bank of Ireland, right away, if you have entered any personal information, using the details below.

Republic of Ireland

Freephone: 1800 946 764 (personal and business)

Great Britain & Northern Ireland

Freephone: 0800 121 7790 (for 365 credit card customers)

Everywhere outside Republic of Ireland, Great Britain & Northern Ireland

Not Freephone + 353567757007

Update your phone software

Remember to install the latest software updates for your phone as they become available.

Some of these updates help make your phone more secure.

Find out more

You can also check out our articles on ‘How to spot scam emails’ and ‘How to spot phone scams’.

Security Zone on the Bank of Ireland website has a lot more information on how to beat the fraudsters including a page on smishing.

*Clicking on this link brings you to a third-party website. Bank of Ireland is not responsible for content on this website.

All efforts were made to ensure that the information in this article was accurate at the time of original publication. The content of this article do not constitute financial advice.

Bank of Ireland is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland.

Topic: Security October 13, 2019
Author: Neil Cubley
Tags: Smishing

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