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Published 10 November 2023
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10 minutes

Royal Mail Scam Texts: Fake Delivery Messages Explained

Modern scams come in many forms and can catch out even the most savvy consumers. Scam texts specifically are becoming increasingly sophisticated and tricky to spot. Here, we highlight what to watch out for to avoid being scammed.

Anyone can fall victim to a scam, so it can pay to know what to look out for. Scammers are always searching for ways to separate you from your personal data or cash. But while it may feel increasingly like an unavoidable part of modern life, staying informed is the first step to making sure your money is safe.

Fraudsters trying to get cash from innocent victims is hardly new, but some of the technological tools they now use may come as a surprise. Classic scams are still out there, but it is much more likely that your most recent contact with a fraudster will have been through your phone.

You could well have received a suspicious courier text at some point, asking you to click on a link to pay a nominal fee or give some basic personal details. These can be particularly worrying because they can appear to be legitimate and may even arrive when you are actually expecting a package.

Royal Mail scam texts and emails can be effective for fraudsters because they appear to come from such a trusted source. In fact, these messages are often from scammers using a tool to mimic legitimate couriers and dupe customers.

What is the Royal Mail scam text?

Royal Mail scams often appear as a text message or sometimes an email.

The Royal Mail scam text is a form of phishing attack known as smishing, or SMS phishing. Smishing attacks can also be disguised to appear to come from DPD or other delivery services.

Text and email scam messages may look like they are from Royal Mail (or another legitimate company), but they are in fact an attempt to gain access to your personal data and cash. They may tell you that:

  • a delivery needs to be rescheduled
  • an additional postage fee needs to be paid to receive your item
  • a package is ready to track.

All of these messages will usually include a link to complete this action.

Clicking that link is the key part of the scam. It will take you to a seemingly legitimate web page where you enter personal details or your banking information. This can lead to money being taken from your account or your account being hacked.

Scam websites

Royal Mail also warns of fake websites that imitate their official Stamps and Collectables website.

These scam sites may advertise discounts on stamps but, once you’ve made a payment, you may receive fake stamps or nothing at all.

Always make sure you’re on the official Royal Mail page before putting in any payment details.

Is the Royal Mail fee to pay card a scam?

In some cases, Royal Mail may legitimately ask you to pay a fee to release a letter or parcel. This might be because:

  • You’ve been sent an item but the sender didn’t pay enough postage.
  • You didn’t pay enough postage when sending an international item.
  • You need to pay a customs charge to receive an item from outside the UK.

If you need to pay a fee, Royal Mail will post a grey “Fee to Pay” card through your door. It can also send a text or email about the fee, but this will always be in addition to the grey card. The card may arrive a couple of days after the message, so it may be worth waiting until you receive it before taking any action.

Royal Mail says it won’t ask you to send any personal or payment details over text or email, and it  won’t ask for payment over the phone. 

You can pay the required fee to Royal Mail online or by post (using the instructions on the grey card). Be wary of clicking any links in a message that’s seemingly from Royal Mail, and check that you’re on the official Royal Mail website before making any payment.

If you’re unsure whether a payment request is legitimate, contact Royal Mail directly. You can also check the tracking number in the message to see if it’s correct.

How to spot a Royal Mail scam

Some of the common signs of a scam text or email include:

  • Basic spelling mistakes or grammar errors. An official text message from Royal Mail is far less likely to include this kind of mistake than a smishing attack. Big companies often have rigorous editorial standards for customer communication, fraudsters usually do not.
  • An unusual email address or number. While most scammers are able to hide their number or email address and replace it with a legitimate-sounding name, many cannot. If a courier is genuinely contacting you, it will not be from a seemingly random phone number. A message from an unrecognised number could well be a Royal Mail scam text or other smishing attempt.
  • An unusual web address in the link. Although the wording of the link text does not always correspond to where clicking will send you, a subtle change can be a clue. For example, a letter in the address may be capitalised or a different letter or number added instead. Spotting this kind of visual trick can be an obvious sign that someone is trying to fool you.
  • A generic subject or greeting. Scam messages may address you as “Royal Mail Customer” or similar, instead of your name.
  • Asking for payment. While Royal Mail may sometimes ask you for payment, many scam messages will say you need to pay a fee to release an item. If it’s a legitimate request, Royal Mail will leave a grey card at your address. Be wary of any messages that ask for payment and, if in doubt, check with Royal Mail directly.
  • There’s a deadline to take action. Beware of any message that says you need to act urgently. If the text says you must click the link immediately today or risk losing your package, that is probably a scam. There is always time for you to contact Royal Mail directly to find out if there is a legitimate issue. Depending on the reason for the fee, if the payment request comes from Royal Mail, you should have 18 or 21 days to pay.

You can check the Royal Mail website for more information. This page lists the most common scams that Royal Mail is aware of, including seasonal-specific techniques, such as scam text messages relating to Christmas deliveries. You could also search social media or news sites to see if new messages have been reported. You can do the same if you think you may be a victim of a DPD scam.

By knowing what current scam texts look like, you can make sure you are not falling into any obvious traps.

What should I do if I get a Royal Mail scam text?

If you recognise a text message as a smishing attempt, do not click on the link.

The best way to deal with a Royal Mail scam email or text – or any other smishing attack – is to report it. That way the targeted company can highlight the issue to their customers and lower the risk of someone else becoming a victim of that particular scam, while the relevant authorities can pursue the scammers involved.

Remember that while some messages may seem like obvious scams to you, there will be potential victims out there who don’t know what to look for.

You can report Royal Mail scams by emailing [email protected], or visiting its scam mail web page.

If you think you’ve been scammed and live in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, you can report these messages to the police through the national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime, Action Fraud, by calling it on 0300 123 2040 or by forwarding the message by text to 7726. If you live in Scotland, you should report the scam to Police Scotland.

Alternatively, you can report scams at the National Cyber Security Centre, which covers the whole of the UK.

Royal Mail scam texts and all smishing or phishing scams are increasingly sophisticated. The frequency of smishing messages can pick up at times of crisis and can have a serious impact on the lives of their victims. You shouldn’t feel as if you are wasting time or resources by reporting them to the police, as it is a criminal matter.

How do I know if I’ve been scammed?

You may not be immediately aware that you have become a victim of a Royal Mail text or email scam or other smishing or phishing con.

The first alarm bell should be if a company or organisation you have sent money to stops replying to your calls, emails or messages. If you have sent money or details to a scammer, they are likely to go cold as soon as they have what they need from you.

You might also find that you cannot access your online banking or other accounts because your passwords have been changed. If you can access your accounts, you may find that significant sums have been transferred out. This might be through one large transfer or several smaller transactions that you cannot explain.

If you are the victim of a scam related to making a purchase or receiving a package, you will probably find that the package never arrives. For example, if you were asked by text to pay extra postage on a package, it is likely that the item never existed.

What should I do next?

If you think any of your passwords have been compromised, you should change them immediately. Always pick a strong, memorable password – Cyber Aware, the government cyber advice centre, suggests using three random words and offers further guidance on password protection.

If you have fallen victim to a Royal Mail scam text and clicked on a link or paid a fee, phone your bank and report any unexplained charges as fraudulent.

Beware of what appears to be your bank calling you, as this is a common scammer technique. Convincing fraudsters might call you pretending to be from your bank and encourage you to transfer your savings into a ‘safe account’. No legitimate bank will ever ask you to do this, so if the request comes through, hang up. Use the number on the back of your debit card to contact your bank.

If any money has been taken from your account, or you have transferred it to what you thought was a ‘safe account’, you will need to contact your bank. Again, use the number on the back of your card to ensure you are talking to a legitimate employee. Remember that your bank will never ask you for any passwords or PINs over the phone. Your bank will likely have a policy in place for dealing with cases related to phishing or smishing scams, but there is no guarantee you will be able to get your money back.

There are cases of banks relenting to public pressure and reimbursing customers, so don’t take no for an answer straight away. If its final response is still no, your next port of call should be the Financial Ombudsman Service. This service is free and will make an independent adjudication on your dispute with the bank.

Image source: Getty Images

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