My text message from a scammer?

Tony Levene
by Lovemoney Staff Tony Levene on 10 December 2010  |  Comments 16 comments

Tony Levene has received an alarming text message. Was it from a scammer?

Ding, dong – or whatever noise my phone makes when a text message arrives.

Although I didn't recognise the number 07909 529509 - not everyone I know is in my contacts' list - I opened it to find the following:

You may be entitled to 3,750 pounds for the Accident you had.

To claim for free reply with YES to this msg.

To opt out text STOP.”

Leaving aside grammar and punctuation difficulties, this immediately raised several questions.

  1.       Who sent it? There was no name and the mobile number was unrecognisable (or checkable)
  2.       How could the unknown sender know I had suffered an accident? The fact is that I have not had an accident recently. My last mishap was many years ago and as it was entirely my fault, so even if I had thought of claiming for negligence (I could not) there was no way a court would have awarded me anything.
  3.       Even, however, if I had had a mishap where someone else had been negligent and hence I could have claimed in a court, how could the sender know it was worth £3,750? It's such an odd sum. Any recompense might be more or less but it is highly unlikely to have been £3,750.
  4.       What will happen if I reply YES? Would I end up receiving a endless wave of porn pix at £5 a throw or be connected to some £10 a minute overseas call centre? I did not know who sent this so why should I have any confidence in a response?
  5.       Why should I spend money on a text to say STOP to an unsolicited message? And if I did, would this unleash the same payment problems as if I had texted YES? I remember the computer scam a few years ago where people found they had been connected to a 50p a minute line in some South Pacific island for hours on end.

So I closed the text, without either a YES or a STOP. But despite ignoring the message, an hour or so later, my phone rang with a Manchester number on display.

I called back to hear a recorded message saying: ““This is HYC. Press one and we'll connect you to the first available adviser.”

My suspicion is that there is a way of knowing which phones have been used to read the text. As with spam emails, I’m guessing even opening a spam text sends a signal. If any lovemoney.com readers can shed any further insight on whether this is the case, it would be great if you could comment below.

The text gets your attention

HYC turns out to be “Help Your Claim Ltd” - a firm which, to quote its website, is, “based in the Financial Capital of the North, Manchester Spinningfields, we are a regulated claims management company, specialising in financial claims against mis-sold Payment Protection Insurance.

We are experts in making compensation claims for mis-sold payment protection insurance and unfair credit card charges. Our staff have many years of experience in dealing with financial claims so you can be sure your claim is in safe hands.”

Set up in April 2009, HYC has one director – Peter Anwar, aged 30, who is also a director of The Financial Rights Centre and Help your Debt. The Financial Rights Centre was set up on October 27 this year while Help Your Debt dates back to March 3, 2010. The Office of Fair Trading has criticised use by claims and debt management companies of titles which might imply a free service or one connected to a good cause.

Its website does not mention accident claims although this does not mean it will not handle lawsuits from mishaps. But, accident or not, it has your attention for a potential financial claim.

And clearly, it is effective at sucking people in, at least some of the time. I know this because the exact same text message has been sent to me recently from other companies, all claims management firms.

Waste of time and money

Insurance insiders tell me that this message alone could be responsible for one in nine of all claims. In some cases, a mobile company's entire customer base has been texted.

Insurers say the costs of dealing with claims – some turn out to be groundless and some fraudulent - has pushed up the cost of cover, especially for motor insurance.

Earlier this year, Mark Brill, chair of the Direct Marketing Association’s mobile council said: “If it [the receiving phone] is a personal account, then people they contacted should have directly opted-in or, at the very least, a soft-opt in as a result of an enquiry, or previous purchase. The company should also identify themselves in this kind of communication.”

In my case, Brill's advice was ignored.

A sharp practice

If you respond to this text, it’s likely that your time will be wasted. But it affects even those people who do not respond. You may find yourself worrying over who the sender is, how they got your number, and how they can be so sure you have had an accident. And if you really have had an accident (or have a loved one injured), you may find this an unwarranted intrusion into your life.

It’s a sharp practice and yet Help Your Claim is not doing anything illegal, and is in fact authorised by the Ministry of Justice. But authorisation only requires meeting minimum and minimal standards and is not, according to the Ministry, a “recommendation or endorsement”. Sending out pest texts is not specifically banned by the Ministry – although you might think it should be.

Have you ever received a text like this? Please share your experiences using the comments box below.

More from this blog: The global warming scam that will cost you £7,500 |The tax refund scam in your inbox | My friend’s cry for help was a scam | The property scam you must not fall for |  Exclusive: One reader's £4,760 property scam | My letter from an Australian scammer The email scam you must not fall for  | The sneaky postal service scam The prize scam that says prize sucker The new scam on your doorstep  | The scam the Government uses to rob your children | Sell your car for £1,000 more than it’s worth  |Watch out: These 'bargains' are scams!  |My email from a psychic scammer  | The gambling tips scammer  | The scammer who visited me  | My phonecall with a sharedealing scammer  | The oldest scam in the book  | My phonecall from a wine investment scammer  | How I was targeted by a property scammer  |  My phonecall from a scammer  | Nine things you need to know about scams 

Award-winning scams expert Tony Levene explains why he's writing a blog about scams and why he is The Scam Magnet!

Enjoyed this? Show it some love

Twitter
General

Comments (16)

  • PJDutton
    Love rating 0
    PJDutton said

    Sometimes I'm really, really glad I don't have a mobile phone!

    Report on 11 December 2010  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • travelmad
    Love rating 4
    travelmad said

    I recently had the same text and although there had been a motoring incident there was no way they would have known.

    Deleted the text but didn't get a follow-up call.

    I'm sure that there are those who would have responded in the circumstances but I wasn't born yesterday.

     

    Report on 11 December 2010  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • ProProductions
    Love rating 1
    ProProductions said

    Scammers like these have been using the same method for years now and it's a mostly automated process. The same process applies to email, phone calls and texts.

    It plays out like this, a computer sends you an email, text or calls you (silent call) and depending on the outcome depends on what they do next.

    For example when you get a text the sender gets a delivery report (delivered to handset) they dont even need to know if you read it. If their system gets the delivered to handset message then the scammers know the number works. The same for email, if the email doesnt bounce back, they know they have a valid email address. It's pretty much the same for phone calls too. They simply get a computer to call you. Wait for the Hello? Hello? bit and then hang up. Just by picking up the call the system knows the line works and someone will answer.

    With the above example in mind the companies can gain various contact information very quickly and many companies use multiple methods. Like text first, call second.

    But just because they are going with the new accident claim/payment insurance flow doesn't mean to say that's what they are actually contacting you about. Many of these companies use it as a way to pipe information from you.

    Put simple, ABUSING YOUR INTRIGUE.

    As many people will admit, they recieve something and often want to know more. Even if just to ask how the company got their details.

    Easy way around all of this is to google first, reply second. If google yields no results then you are more than likely going to get scammed.

    Services like whocallsme.com help with calls but are useless with texts until people actually post about the texts they get.

    And besides all the above. YOU REALLY NEED TO REMEMBER THIS >>

    If it's too good to be true, it more than likely is

    &

    Just because it appears to be from someone you know, it sometimes isnt

    One fact that many people don't know about phone, text and email is that all of the information you see is often fake.

    There are text services out there that let you set a custom sender, for email texting someone and making it appear to come from SANTA. And yes I have done it myself.

    There are phone services that let you fake the caller ID, so the call can appear to be local but could be from anywhere.

    And finally email is the worst, it can contain more fake information than any other method of contact.

    Hopefully the information I have put here helps someone!

    Report on 11 December 2010  |  Love thisLove  1 love
  • LocalRes
    Love rating 6
    LocalRes said

    As others, I also received the same text. I certainly would not reply to any unsolicited texts, emails, calls, etc., they just go straight in the bin!

    This form of contact is an intrusion into people's lives, and some better control is required.

    It is usually the less financially able, and the more vunerable that get caught, in the hope of financial gain, which of course, never materialises.  

    Report on 11 December 2010  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • richmcd
    Love rating 1
    richmcd said

    I'm obviously not in favour of companies like this. I would be much happier if HYC and others like it didn't exist. They're at best a nuisance and at worst a threat to vulnerable individuals. But the way to deal with these problems is to inform yourself and be reasonable, and I'm not sure this article helps much.

    How do you know it was a follow up call? Maybe you have a good reason for thinking this, but you don't give it. They offered different services, contacted you by different methods, and showed different levels of command of English. In fact the only evidence you seem to have is that you received both on the same day, and a mad theory about being able to tell if text messages have been read or not. You even admit that you had previously received the exact same message from DIFFERENT companies. Surely it's just as likely that these are two separate messages from two separate companies? (I googled the number you quote and it doesn't seem to be listed on any of the "Who Calls Me?" sites, even though nuisance calls from HYC are.)

    For someone who at the end of his article decries these companies for worrying people, you seem to be doing a lot of scaremongering yourself:

    - Even though you admit that you yourself don't know, your article is very likley to give some people the impression that companies can tell whether you've read their texts.

    - You suggest, with no evidence except that such scams exist, that replying to the text could have expensive consequences (and I don't see what the 50p a minute phone call scam has to do with anything; surely that would have been targeted at people with dial-up modems which are pracitcally obsolete). Yes it is right to be cautious, but you have to be sensible: you state later that companies like this do well enough from working inside the law. Why would they compromise this by trying to pull off any of the scams you suggest? That's just poor psychology.

    Obviously I can't disagree with your main points: the text was obviously a scam and people shouldn't respond to them; the practices of HYC are deplorable, though legal. But I don't see how this article, composed almost entirely of speculation or irrelevant tangents, is especially helpful beyond reiterating these basic points. And if HYC didn't send that text message then you could surely find yourself in a spot of bother?

    Report on 11 December 2010  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • greyboarder
    Love rating 0
    greyboarder said

    Yes I had one the other day for a £750 accident claim...I am currently in Thailand and like you just ignored the text. But it had me wondering!!!

    Report on 11 December 2010  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • Nogbad
    Love rating 1
    Nogbad said

    Most mobile phone operators have spam reporting services. If you forward the SPAM to 7726 (this spells SPAM on a mobile keypad) they will investigate. The O2 policy is at on their site - the text below is what they say

    "If the message is a scam, such a 'Win a holiday' type of message, it

    will often have a response phone number to call. In this instance, O2

    can bar the number to prevent customers from losing money by calling.

    In more complicated cases, we'll look into the messages in

    greater depth and take steps to prevent further costs or damage to

    customers. We also work with PhonepayPlus and other operators to help

    protect young people and other customers from spam texts."

    I think all the UK operators provide the same service. I also think it is free to forward the text to this number.

    Report on 11 December 2010  |  Love thisLove  1 love
  • GreyKitten
    Love rating 1
    GreyKitten said

    I no longer answer numbers that I don't know. I check them on whocallsme.com and 9 times out of 10 they're from some pesky company that's just phishing around.

    Once I've identified them as someone I don't want to speak to I store the number using a suitably rude name ( eg. crap1 - a mild example!). After a month or two of not being answered they usually cease ringing.

    Report on 11 December 2010  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • easygoing
    Love rating 170
    easygoing said

    Good article and an interesting follow up by ProProductions , perhaps richmcd should read it. I have had several calls recently where the caller ID is just 0000000

    Nogbad thanks I didn't know about the spam reporting service for mobiles although in 15years of mobile owning I have only had one spam call and no spam messages. 

    Thanks for the info everyone, shame there is always someone who wants to put a downer on these pieces.

    Report on 11 December 2010  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • richmcd
    Love rating 1
    richmcd said

    @easygoing I afraid I don't understand what your point is. Proproductions was talking about automatic delivery reports, whereas the article was talking about the being able to tell if you've read the message or not. Surely those are two different things?

    I often get phone calls from numbers with faked or absent ID but, again, that wasn't what was mentioned in the article. The number quoted is obviously a real number, it just isn't obviously related to the "Manchester Number" which called him later.

    Does Nogbad "think you don't know about spam reporting services"? Surely they were just trying to offer some general advice not directed at anyone in particular?

    As I said before, I'm not saying that these companies and these techniques aren't a plague - I just think that it's important to be accurate and even-handed so as not to give them any ammunition in their defence and to make sure potential victims are informed and not just scared. Isn't that a reasonable thing to ask for?

    Report on 11 December 2010  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • Charliebob2000
    Love rating 3
    Charliebob2000 said

    I get these communications all the time: either as e-mail, text or direct telephone calls. I now never answer any call ID’d as Private Number Calling (if they can’t be bothered to let me know who they are then it’s probably not that important), and rarely answer numbers I don’t know. My answer phone is brilliant at stopping automated sales and cold calling. E-mails are readily identified as spam and labeled as such.

    I believe that many of these calls are just cold call marketing, (often from genuine companies); as such they don’t really bother me much, and just like a postal mail drop can just be discarded. However like many I have heard tales, and do fear the 50p / min type connection / scam, and therefore am increasingly cautious, which does impact my life in a small way. 

    I have received the accident claim text several times, but the only bad experiences I have had to date were: an abusive cold caller, (not really upset by him, but annoyed that when asked BT said they were unable to provide the callers number, so I never got the chance to be abusive back). And secondly got caught by an on-line scam in which the really really small print committed me to a reoccurring DD, just by entering the site and downloading some information. The company were genuine enough to cancel the DD, but not before they had legally taken about £60+, (Multiply that by about a thousand and not a bad income for three to four months work). Lesson learnt.

    I have taken the precaution of using a second computer for going on-line, and like many people now have one mobile phone for F & F, and a PAYG for anything else. If I do get scammed on the phone my max liability is £10.00.

    Unfortunately life is not as Disney promised, and they are out to get you…. 

    Happy Holidays …..CB.

    Report on 12 December 2010  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • oldbiddy
    Love rating 0
    oldbiddy said

    I every so often get a call who ring for a short time just to register the number then hang up - i believe this is so that we end up paying to contact the company and saves them money.

    Report on 12 December 2010  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • Thirdman
    Love rating 10
    Thirdman said

    Yes I've had this message before. SPAM seems to be getting worse on mobile phones.

    Has anyone else noticed in the small print of TV competition you have to type in NO INFO if you don't want your phone details to be sold? There was a time that televion competitions were used to generate viewing figures, now it's all about generating revenue. £1.50 for a text, then they get to sell your details! How many kids read the small print when they're voting on xfactor etc.*

    Anyhoo, thanks to Nogbag for offering a solution (for want of a better word). Having your mobile registered on the Preferential Service doesn't seem to work for texts.

    *Disclaimer - Thirdman has never voted on xfactor.

    Report on 13 December 2010  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • mambach
    Love rating 37
    mambach said

    I keep getting these kind of things - and some of them I do contact back - with a bill for my services! They spent my time to tell them that their services are illegal, and where not illegal should be, therefore I can charge them for it. Anyone who uses my email to sell their services is hiring my account. Current rates are, oh lets call it £100 per minute.

    Try changing your answerphone to "By calling this automated number, you have implictly formed a contract with my company for business advisory services. Please email us with your full name and business address if you would like to withdraw from this ". Ditto your email signature file.

    You may not get the money, but you stop getting the calls and emails and so on either.

    Report on 18 December 2010  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • RocketSteve
    Love rating 32
    RocketSteve said

    For those of you that have 'smartphones' look for free applications (apps) called 'blacklists'.

    These basically allow you to enter a number that when trying to call you is stopped from receiving sms or ringing your phone. There's varying options as to the level of blocking. Some apps you have to pay for!

    There's also whitelist apps that allow just the callers you've listed to ring/sms your phone. This is more limiting as at times you may want to hear a call coming in from a non-contact listed number.

    Also, if you do want to trying calling a number that you don't recognize but don't wish to allow the receiver to see your number, prefix that 'phone number with #31# or *67 (Network operator depending) T-mobile confirm that #31# is free to use, not the number following it - that's normal, and could be a rip-off number, so be careful!

    Report on 28 December 2010  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • Lee Bro
    Love rating 0
    Lee Bro said

    HYC ltd had a very bad experience with this company having to inform police and action fraud team dealing with debt recovery company they set on my family over mess up with PPI claims. Company seems flippant over security checks and enforces contracts without valid signatures and makes unreasonable demands that are not covered in there contract or invoices. AVOID LIKE THE PLAGUE.

    Report on 19 January 2013  |  Love thisLove  0 loves

Post a comment

Sign in or register to post a reply.

Our top deals

Credit card
company
Balance transfers rate and period Representative
APR
Apply
now

Barclaycard 31Mth Platinum Visa

0% for 31 months (2.99% fee) Representative 18.9% APR (variable) Apply
Representative example: Assumed borrowing of £1,200 for 1 year, at a Purchase Rate of 18.9% (variable), representative 18.9% APR (variable). Credit available subject to status. A Balance Transfer fee of 3.5% will be applied, then reduced to 2.99% by a refund (terms and conditions apply). Plus an additional £20 fee refund on balance transfers over £2000.

Barclaycard 30Mth Platinum Visa

0% for 30 months (2.89% fee) Representative 18.9% APR (variable) Apply
Representative example: Assumed borrowing of £1,200 for 1 year, at a Purchase Rate of 18.9% (variable), representative 18.9% APR (variable). Credit available subject to status. A Balance Transfer fee of 3.5% will be applied, then reduced to 2.89% by a refund (terms and conditions apply). Plus an additional £20 fee refund on balance transfers over £2000.

MBNA 30Mth Platinum Credit Card Visa

0% for 30 months (2.89% fee) Representative 18.9% APR (variable) Apply
Representative example: Assumed borrowing of £1,200 for 1 year, at a Purchase Rate of 18.9% (variable), representative 18.9% APR (variable). Credit available subject to status.
W3C  Thank you for using The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse