EARLIER this year, I received the following text message: ‘There is missing information from your Census application. Update your Census application at nationalgov-census.com to avoid persecution and a £1000 fine.’

However keen I was to avoid persecution - I didn’t want gangs turning up chucking bricks through my windows or daubing crosses on my front door - I took a chance and didn’t call back.

It was clearly a scam. Not only did the word persecution leap out at me, but it took two seconds to check the government census website address - census.gov.uk, not nationalgov-census.com.

Thankfully I didn’t hear from them again, but in the past couple of months I have been plagued by messages on both my mobile phone and landline.

One read: ‘HSBC: At 17:16 GMT on 20/05 you added C Jones as a new payee for £250. If this was not you visit https://reviewpayee manager.com/hsbc.

It wasn’t me - I’ve never had an HSBC bank account - and my suspicions were quickly raised, but when I opened the text I admit to also thinking ‘Do I know anyone called C Jones?’

I’m fairly on the ball with stuff like this and I am lucky to have had quite a bit of training through work on how to identify different types of scam, but I still have to think carefully as to whether some messages I receive are real.

Last week I received a landline call from my ‘internet provider’ saying that unless I pressed a certain number to connect, my internet service would be cut off. I dismissed it as a scam, but two days later my internet wasn’t working. ‘That call was real’, I thought, before using the age-old trick of turning it off and on, which, to my relief, worked.

That’s the problem, sometimes it’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s not. Scams have moved on from the ‘Nigerian prince wants your help to access his missing millions’ type messages that, amazingly, some people still fall for.

Now they are far more sophisticated and convincing. The number of scams flying around has leapt by 66 per cent in the UK during lockdown. The National Cyber Security Centre has removed more online scams in the last 12-months than in the previous three years combined.

You can imagine how frantic I was when I received a call from my youngest daughter at 2am one night. She told me she had been called by her bank who informed her that her card details were being used to make purchases in Miami, and was she there?

“You haven’t given them any details, have you?” I asked. To my horror, she had, adding that she thought it was genuine as they had all her security information. I managed to contact her bank, who then called her for permission to speak to me. Incredibly, it turned out to be bonafide.

People of all ages fall victim. Even TV’s money-saving expert Martin Lewis has been targeted. Last month he jokingly questioned how the scammers dared to try and take his money with a fake HSBC link. Like me, he doesn’t have an account with them.

New rackets include requests for parcel delivery costs. It starts with a text about a small fee for a package and can end with criminals emptying your bank account, as they did recently to a couple in Somerset. With so many people at home ordering goods and services online, they didn’t think it was unusual. The ease of it all is quite frightening.

A spokesperson for Trading Standards said this sort of scam was very common and that Covid was “a scammers dream”.

It makes you wonder if it is safer to keep all your savings under the mattress.