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Scams Awareness Month: Top 5 SMS cons to look out for

With technically-minded criminals now presented with more avenues than ever before to attack a digitally immersed public, the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) and Trading Standards Institute has embarked on its annual Scams Awareness Month for May 2013.

According to the CAB, more than three million people in the UK fall victims to scams every year, costing us an eye watering collective average of £3.5 billion per annum.

It is estimated that nearly half of us (48 per cent) have now been targeted by a scam, so the top five text hustles compiled by security firm Cloudmark will no doubt be familiar to many.

The company collected data from its filtering services throughout April to determine which SMS scams were most prominent right now. While most of us will sniff out and instinctively ignore spammy test messages, not everyone in our family and friendship circles will be aware of the threats. And with fraudsters becoming increasingly creative, Cloudmark’s top five could make essential reading for you and those you know.

The Big Five

1. Payday loan scams (31 per cent of SMS spam in April 2013) – Offers victims access to short-term loans with no fuss or background checks. It goes on to collect personal details including bank account information, and then asks for an application fee.

2. PPI compensation scams (30 per cent of SMS spam) – Requests personal details for a no win, no fee opportunity to claim PPI compensation. Personal data is sold on through a ‘ping-tree’ and will lead to a request for a processing fee, and a percentage of the refund if the victim is in fact eligible.

3. Pension liberation scams (15 per cent of SMS spam) – Pension liberation also known as 'pension loans', is a transfer of a scheme member’s pension savings to an arrangement that will allow them to access their funds before the age 55. In rare cases – such as terminal illness – it is possible to access funds before age 55 from a current pension scheme. For the majority, promises of early cash will be bogus and are likely to result in serious tax consequences.

4. Debt relief scams (11 per cent of SMS spam) – Offers to wipe out 70 per cent of debts. Victims are promised that pre-2006 debts will all be wiped clean as the "Government are wiping out all debt to encourage people to spend again". Victims are told to add £850.00 fee to one of their cards which will then be wiped clean, therefore costing nothing. Nothing happens and calls go unanswered or lots of excuses, like "it’s being dealt with", in the meantime they have your money.

5. Betting tips scams (3 per cent of SMS spam) - Invitation to call a premium rate number to get a betting tip. Better than most scams in that there is a chance that the horse in the tip will actually win the race if all the others fall over.