Police are on alert for SMS phishing attacks in which scammers claim to be from parcel delivery firm Sagawa Express Co.

The new crime, known as “smishing,” or SMS phishing, involves short text messages intended to guide smartphone users to fake websites where they are prompted to send personal information via SMS, or short message services.

The police believe smishing reports are surging in line with an increase in home deliveries caused by e-commerce.

Late last month a 29-year-old man in Mie Prefecture received a text message disguised as an attempted-delivery notice that included a website address containing the word “Sagawa.”

Although he was not sure he had recently made an order, he visited the website, which displayed the Sagawa Express logo. The site urged him to install an app on his smartphone.

Finding the request strange, he called the telephone number of the purported sender of the message only to reach a man who had nothing to do with the company.

According to Sagawa Express, the messages and related websites are fake and intended to install an app that will steal IDs, passwords and credit card information.

In some cases, those who install the app, which runs on Google Inc.’s Android operating system, ended up having their smartphones secretly used to send more smishing messages, sources said.

In some cases, visitors to fake websites were prompted to enter their phone numbers and other personal information instead of installing the app.

Sagawa Express has confirmed that there are over 20 types of fake text messages and that it never uses such messages to contact its customers.

The scam attempts are soaring.

According to the Information-Technology Promotion Agency, there were only 10 consultations about fake Sagawa Express emails in first half of the year but 110 in July alone.

The agency is warning people not to visit dubious websites or to let their smartphones to install apps with anonymous providers. It also advises that people who have installed such apps delete them after switching their devices to airplane mode.

Similar consultation requests have been received by Tokyo’s Metropolitan Police Department, as well as the Hokkaido, Iwate, Toyama and Fukuoka prefectural police departments.

The police are alerting the public about the new type of scam via Twitter and other communication channels.

An MPD official raised the possibility that the attackers will likely pretend to be from other major companies as well.

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