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More of us falling victim to ‘brushing’ and ‘smishing’ as delivery scams rise

Online shopping has certainly boomed over the last 18-months as the pandemic forced high streets to shut up shop.

Convenience is key for many of us with everything from groceries and homeware to clothing available at the click of a button.

However, there are some negatives that come with shopping from our smartphones, tablets and laptops.

Alongside the growth of e-commerce there has been a rise in associated scams.

According to Which?, reports of ‘smishing’ (SMS phishing) increased by 700% in the first six months of 2021, compared to the previous six months, and now the watchdog is warning of a new scam called ‘brushing’, where fraudsters send mystery Amazon deliveries to households.

Security specialist at Comparitech, Brian Higgins, said: “These kinds of frauds will become far more prevalent in the run-up to Christmas and people’s vulnerability will be exacerbated by talk of supply chain shortages etc. making it far more likely that they will be taken in by text messages asking for excess delivery fees.”

When it comes to avoiding scammers, knowledge is power. Here, experts explain what to look out for and how to respond.

Smishing scams

“Delivery scams often come in the form of a link that looks as if it has come from a parcel service,” says Javvad Malik, lead security awareness advocate at KnowBe4 (knowbe4.com). “This can be in the form of an email (phishing) or an SMS text message (smishing). Often a tracking number is included with a message, whether it is legitimate or not.”

If you are expecting a parcel, don’t click on the link. Instead, go to the website of the delivery website and copy and paste the tracking number to check if it’s genuine.

“The best advice is always the hardest to follow,” says Higgins, “which is to ignore them and just wait for your parcel to arrive. Never click on any links or attachments and don’t be tempted to respond or engage with the sender.

“If there truly is an issue, the courier company will usually leave a card at your address. Anyone asking for card details or other personal information these days outside of genuine retail websites is almost certainly trying to rip you off.”

Brushing scams

A new type of scam, ‘brushing’ involves sending mystery Amazon orders, with fraudsters hoping to boost the ratings of third party sellers.

“This kind of scam may seem harmless, but it is often a sign of a previously compromised account that has allowed personal data to fall into the hands of cybercriminals,” says Jonathan Miles, head of strategic intelligence and security research at Mimecast (mimecast.com). “It is likely that this would have happened as a result of a data breach.”

Alternatively, the data could have been acquired legally by a marketing company: “As we know in the protection of data, if you click that you are happy for your details to be passed to third parties, you may fall victims to these scams. Consumers should be weary that these attacks are on the rise and ensure they are not clicking on suspicious links within emails.”

If you do receive a mystery package, you’re not obliged to return the product. According to a Which? survey, of those who received unknown deliveries, 63% said they kept them, 28% threw them and 16% gave them away.

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