I received a text on my mobile the other day from Emma, who said she was in hospital and needed our help.
We have a family member named Emma. But I ignored the text. Why ignore it, you may ask, when a family member is in need of assistance?
The answer is fairly straightforward – it’s because I spent my whole career as a journalist and am therefore naturally cynical and questioning.
If this was from the Emma we know, why did her name not come up on the mobile as the caller? After all, her number is in my contacts.
And why did she not call other closer family members first, such as her parents or even her husband?
I knew immediately it was a scam, obviously did not reply and blocked the number before hitting Google.
And there, surprise, surprise, I found a warning about a hospital text scam using a common name that has been tricking people out of their hard-earned cash.
Most people will know someone called 'Emma', or any other common (I use that term loosely) name but replying to such a text will leave you £20 out of pocket.
The fraudsters play on people's emotions by sending a distressed message saying they are in hospital from what appears to be an ordinary mobile number.
The message I received stated: “Its Emma. I tried to call you but signal bad.
“I been taken to hospital after having a fall this morning. If possible can you do me a quick favour and text me x.” And yes, the grammar really was that bad.
Action Fraud say: “After responding to the message, the fraudsters ask victims to purchase a mobile phone top-up code and text it back to them.
“Once the fraudsters have the code, they can get the cash credited to their own mobile phone account.”
So, I saved myself £20. Hopefully my reader will take note and not fall into this emotional trap.
Sadly, the world is full of scammers who want to part you with your money. That’s one of the reasons we recently upgraded our landline phone to a more secure make which can sort the chaff from the wheat.
This followed a spate of calls, purportedly from UK numbers, saying we were eligible for a free gas boiler, paid for by the Government.
How nice of them. Especially as we live in a rural part of this great county that does not have mains gas!
This went on for weeks and after each call I reported it to the Information Commissioners Office (https://ico.org.uk), giving date, time, number that called me etc. etc.
The calls eventually stopped and we had many months of no spam calls. Until early March, when they started again. Three on one day, two the next, all from different “UK” numbers. The first one was from an area code we know well, having family living there, so I answered it. Apparently, I’d had a missed call from my internet service provider.
I hung up immediately and let the next few UK but unknown-to-me number calls go through to the answer machine. Each one ended the call and left no message.
I am not sure what this particular scam is about but I would guess some nice man or woman would try to sweet talk me into a) letting them take control of my computer or b) persuade me to pay money to keep my service going.
Something that really irks me about these calls is the fact they appear to come from a UK number. Which is odd as we are fully paid-up members of the Telephone Preference Service and should not be getting any unsolicited calls.
But a quick search on the internet came up with the answer – you don’t have to be in the UK to have a UK number.
There are numerous businesses advertising what are known as UK Virtual Phone Numbers. Meaning you could be sitting in Portugal, for example, but the person you calls sees a UK number on his/ her telephone display.Wow, it’s a funny old world. Well, funny may not be the correct word. Perhaps I should just say a sad world.
One where you cannot seemingly trust anything, even a UK phone number.
Now please don’t have nightmares. Just become a little more cynical and question EVERY call or text you receive from a number you don’t know. If in doubt, let it go to answer and see what happens.
A genuine person will leave a message. Scammers usually use an automated system and will hang up.