According to this circulating warning, an “extremely sophisticated gang” is instantly emptying bank accounts via a fake failed payment message.
Supposedly, as soon as you touch the scam message, your money is gone. The warning claims to be from the City of London Police and is seemingly confirmed by the financial journalist Martin Lewis from MoneySavingExpert.com.
However, the claims in the warning are nonsense. No such scam is occurring or has ever occurred. The City of London Police did not send the message. Nor was it confirmed by Martin Lewis.
The warning is a hoax that has been circulating via WhatsApp and social media posts since March 2020.
If such a sophisticated attack were really taking place and had been ongoing for more than a year, then police and mainstream media would be extensively reporting on the issue. But, there are no credible reports that support the claims in the supposed warning.
Certainly, be wary of fake payment notification messages, as discussed in more detail below. However, passing on this false and misleading warning message will help nobody.
An Example of the Hoax Message
Straight from the City of London Police fraud team – Extremely sophisticated scam going about this week, involving all banks. You get a message saying a payment hasn’t been taken e.g O2, Vodafone, 3, Giff Gaff or EE and to click here. As soon as you touch it your money is gone. They already have all your details and it’s the most advance scam the bank has ever seen. Pass this on to everyone please. This is straight from work this morning – the banks are being inundated with calls – thousands flying out of peoples accounts! Spread the word to your family and friends!”
Be vigilant !!!!
As confirmed by Martin Lewis this morning!
ActionFraud and Martin Lewis Debunk the Claims
When it first began circulating, ActionFraud, the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime, confirmed that the warning was false via Twitter:
The content of this message is false.
— Action Fraud (@actionfrauduk) March 30, 2020
Martin Lewis also dismissed any involvement in the warning:
WARNING: This viral scam alert’s nowt to do with me. I’ve NOT talked about it
Always be scamaware, but this sounds nonsense. If u do get scam texts/emails it describes, it’s likely phishing for data, so delete.
Yet the scam alert’s no better & ain’t from Cit of Ldn Police AFAIK https://t.co/3mk2kYdemM
— Martin Lewis (@MartinSLewis) November 8, 2020
Could it Happen? – Is There A Grain of Truth Amid the False Claims?
Even the most sophisticated scam could not instantly empty your bank account and steal all of your data because you tapped on or clicked a link. Such an attack is not technically feasible.
If it were all that easy, criminals would have long since emptied all of our bank accounts, and security experts would be issuing legitimate warnings about such banking vulnerabilities.
However, it is important to note that scammers regularly use fake payment notifications to trick people into divulging their personal and financial information.
For example, you might receive a “payment failed” email or text message that looks like it was sent by your phone service provider, bank, or another company you have an account with. Links in the message might open a fake website that asks you to enter your login credentials, credit card numbers, and other personal information. Scammers could then use this information to hijack your account and steal your money and identity.
To stay safe online, you should be wary of messages that ask you to click a link or open an attached file and provide sensitive information. Such phishing scams are very common.
But, even if you click links in such scam messages, the theft does not happen instantly just from clicking and will only occur if you provide information to the criminals.
If you followed a link in a scam message, it could take you to a website that harboured malware. Once downloaded and installed, this malware could collect information such as passwords from your device and sent it to criminals. The criminals could then use the stolen information to hijack your accounts. Or, once running on your device, the malware could trick you into entering your information into a fake form or login box.
But, again, even the most sophisticated malware will not allow criminals to instantly drain your bank accounts from just one click as claimed in the message.
Importance NoticeAfter considerable thought and with an ache in my heart, I have decided that the time has come to close down the Hoax-Slayer website.
These days, the site does not generate enough revenue to cover expenses, and I do not have the financial resources to sustain it going forward.
Moreover, I now work long hours in a full-time and physically taxing job, so maintaining and managing the website and publishing new material has become difficult for me.
And finally, after 18 years of writing about scams and hoaxes, I feel that it is time for me to take my fingers off the keyboard and focus on other projects and pastimes.
When I first started Hoax-Slayer, I never dreamed that I would still be working on the project all these years later or that it would become such an important part of my life. It's been a fantastic and engaging experience and one that I will always treasure.
I hope that my work over the years has helped to make the Internet a little safer and thwarted the activities of at least a few scammers and malicious pranksters.
A Big Thank YouI would also like to thank all of those wonderful people who have supported the project by sharing information from the site, contributing examples of scams and hoaxes, offering suggestions, donating funds, or helping behind the scenes.
I would especially like to thank David White for his tireless contribution to the Hoax-Slayer Facebook Page over many years. David's support has been invaluable, and I can not thank him enough.
Closing DateHoax-Slayer will still be around for a few weeks while I wind things down. The site will go offline on May 31, 2021. While I will not be publishing any new posts, you can still access existing material on the site until the date of closure.
Thank you, one and all!