Consumers and employees are being warned about a surge in spoof texts which appear to be sent from their bank or a government department in a bid to steal their personal or financial information.

The scam text messages claim that there has been suspicious activity on the recipient’s account or that their account details need to be “updated” or “verified”. The growing trend has been reported to Financial Fraud Action UK (FFA UK), which fights fraud in the UK payments industry and whose members include banks and card firms.

The fraudulent texts encourage people to visit a website or call a number, often claiming the matter is urgent. But the website or telephone number is controlled by the fraudster, enabling them to steal security details which can be used to access the victim’s bank account and take money.

To make the texts seem authentic, fraudsters use software which alters the sender ID on a message so that it appears with the name of a bank or government department as the sender. This can mean that the text is included within an existing text message thread on the recipient’s phone.

FFA UK advises people to suspect any text asking them to provide sensitive personal information, passwords or to make transactions. Consumers should be very wary of clicking on any link in a text message to “update” or “verify” account details.

If someone has any doubts about a text message, they should call their bank on a number that they trust, such as the one on the back of their card. Banks will never phone people to ask for their four-digit Pin number or their online banking password, even by tapping them into the telephone keypad.

They will never ask someone to update their personal details by following a link in a text message or ask them to transfer money to a new account for fraud reasons, even if they say that the new account is in that person’s name.

Katy Worobec, director of FFA UK, said: “We have seen a recent increase in attempts by fraudsters to use scam text messages to con people into giving away their security information.

“Always be wary if you receive a message out of the blue asking you for any personal or financial details – never give this out unless you are absolutely sure who you are dealing with. If you’re ever at all suspicious, call your bank on a number that you know.”

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