We’ve recently been alerted to a scam circulating within the UK and causing distress to parents or adults who knows someone by the name of “Sarah”.
The scam comes in the form of an SMS, which contains a message stating that “Sarah”, the purported sender, has been in a “small accident” and is asking the recipient to text back once they’ve received her message. The Teignmouth Police in Devon has shared the below tweet from someone who appears to have encountered the message himself:
The “Sarah” message reads:
Hi it’s Sarah, I need you to do me a favour if possible. I had a small accident and broke my fibula & left elbow. Can you text me back once you get this message x
Based on the number flashed on the above tweet, we found that this particular message may have been in circulation since April of this year. This number has also been tied to several cases of unsolicited calls to random users.
Mum i did try and phone from some else phone signal is really bad, there has been a terrible car accident. I’m in the ICU ward in hospital my phone ain’t switching on and needs charging. I’m on this mobile number please make sure you reply to this number, my friend didn’t make it he died before we got to hospital and his sister’s fighting for her life. Mum i had my seatbelt on, i’ve got a head injury but i’m ok. Going into Xray to be seen, please make sure you message me back and don’t phone cause mobile phones aren’t allowed here so please text in case I’m in there. I will go outside and phone you mum its really bad i need you to do me favour before it’s too late, as soon as you get my text please reply by text i need you to do me a favour mum, time is running out and i need you to do something mum
I'm on this mobile number please make sure you reply to this number, my friend didn't make it he died before we got to hospital and his sister's fighting for her life. Mum I had my seatbelt on, I've got a head injury but I'm ok. Going into Xray to be seen, please make sure you message me back and don't phone cause mobile phones aren't allowed here so please text in case I'm in there.
Other versions may still be in circulation at this time of writing.
SMS scams are not unheard of in the UK, and they use various social engineering tactics: some promise users with video games, glamour videos, and adult material, some simply wants to “catch up,” and some are designed to trick recipients into giving up their online account credentials, even two-factor verification codes. This particular scam is a great new addition to the SMS scam list in the UK, yet it’s not something we haven’t seen before elsewhere.
Three years ago, we were alerted with a similar SMS scam campaign in the Philippines, with the purported sender asking for top up so he/she can make an emergency call.
Those who receive SMS messages from numbers not in their phone contacts may feel compelled to respond, but it is always best to err on the side of caution. Nowadays, merely replying to such messages could cost the recipient a certain amount of money, which they may not be able to get back. If the sender purports to be someone you know—in this case, “Sarah”—it is best to contact this person’s phone number directly even if “she” told you not to.
Parents, if you receive an SMS message similar to what we have featured here, first make sure you’re calm before thinking of contacting the purported sender. Be aware that scammers playing on fear are out there and are always on the lookout for new targets whom they can squeeze out money from. And second, contact your child’s phone directly to make sure they’re fine. This way, you can easily thwart this type of SMS scam.
- Ofcom’s page on Spam texts
- ActionFraud’s online fraud reporting tool
- SMS scams: How to defend yourself