Is this Apple Pay text message a scam? Have smishing texts returned, how to spot fraud messages and what to do

Scammers have been ramping up efforts to catch people out, with criminals targeting government cost of living payments and supermarket deals in particular

As well as being the year of the cost of living crisis, 2022 has also been the year of the scam.

The two things have gone hand-in-hand as criminals have attempted to use UK households’ financial worries to illegally separate people from their hard-earned money.

Government communications about cost of living payments have been some of the most popular targets for fraudsters. Several other phishing scams have also been circulating, including ones about supermarket deals and offers from brands.

One form of smishing scam that has kept resurfacing throughout much of the last 12 months has focused on Apple Pay.

But how can you spot this fraud - and what should you do if you’re targeted by it? Here’s everything you need to know.

Apple has provided several tips on how to avoid being smished (image: Getty Images)

What is smishing?

Smishing is a specific form of phishing - a type of attack that attempts to trick people into handing over money or sensitive private information via their electronic communications.

But while phishing more generally focuses on emails, phone calls and social media messages, smishing specifically refers to text messages.

This type of scam works in several different ways, but the principal method involves fraudsters sending people links or attachments in the hope that they will click through on them. By doing so, they can expose their device to malware that could let the scammer take control of their phone or access information on it.

Another way they can work involves the criminal using the art of persuasion in a bid to convince you to send them cash. The message will be urgent, will not use names (they tend to be sent out to a large group of people), and may also promote scarcity, i.e. offering tickets for an event that’s sold out.

One common form of text doing the rounds at the moment purports to be from a child who has had to use someone else’s phone to message their parents and urgently needs money. Clearly, if you do not have kids this email will be an obvious scam. But if you do have children, it could be quite convincing.

The messages may also appear to have been sent from a popular brand, or even your bank. Should they coincide with you using the particular business they’re pretending to be, these texts can easily catch you out.

A smishing scam is targeting Apple Pay users (image: Getty Images)

What is the Apple Pay ‘suspended’ text scam?

A scam that’s been doing the rounds throughout much of 2022 - but which has resurfaced in recent weeks - is the Apple Pay ‘suspended’ text.

The message appears to be from Apple and tells the person receiving it: “Your Apple Pay has been suspended due to suspicious activity.” It asks people to click on a link to reactivate their account.

On its website, Apple has advised people to avoid clicking on the link. Instead, it has urged users to report the suspicious SMS. To do this, take a screenshot of the message and email it to [email protected].

If it has come to you via Apple messages, you can use the ‘report junk’ function to block the sender and ensure Apple is aware of the issue. The US software company has also provided several key bits of information on how to identify scam texts and avoid being caught out by them.

  • Look at the phone number: if it looks unusual, or you’re not usually contacted via text by the firm in question, report the message and then delete it immediately
  • Look at the link in the message: if the link the message is trying to get you to click on doesn’t match the company’s website, or generally looks suspicious, don’t click on it
  • Does the message look different? If you do tend to get texts from the company in question, does the message look normal? If not, it could be smishing
  • Look at the content: if the message requests personal information, e.g. your credit card details or password, don’t share it

As a general rule of thumb, be suspicious of any unexpected messages purporting to be from a business. If the text looks strange, take time to think it through before acting - don’t be sucked in by its sense of urgency.