Don't be the victim of a texting scam
Texting is cheap and easy, and scammers count on the ding of an incoming text being hard to ignore. In 2022, $330 million in losses to text scams were reported. That’s more than double the 2021 reported losses and nearly five times what people reported in 2019.
But why do text scams work? Scammers use the speed of text communication to their advantage, hoping you won’t slow down to think about what’s in the message. Some messages promise a good thing – a gift, a package, or even a job. Others try to make you panic, thinking someone is in your accounts. These are all designed to take your money and personal information.
While there are countless varieties of text scams, the top five are described below and have one thing in common – they often work by impersonating well-known businesses.
Copycat bank fraud prevention alerts
Reports about texts impersonating banks are up nearly twentyfold since 2019. You might get a fake number to call about supposed suspicious activity or a request to reply “yes or no” to verify a large transaction (that you didn’t make). If you reply, you’ll get a call from the (fake) fraud department. People say they thought the bank was helping them get their money back. Instead, money was transferred out of their account.
Bogus “little gifts” that can cost you
A text about a free gift, reward, or prize may look like it came from a company you know like your cell phone company or a big retailer. But everything about this is fake. If you click the link and pay a small “shipping fee,” you just gave your credit card number to a scammer and fraudulent charges are likely to follow.
Fake package delivery problems
Texts pretending to be from the U.S. Postal Service, FedEx, and UPS say there’s a problem with a delivery. They link to a website that looks real but isn’t. If you paid a small “redelivery fee,” which many people reported, that was a trick to get your credit card number. People also reported giving these scammers their personal information, including Social Security numbers.
Phony job offers
Promises of easy money for mystery shopping at well-known stores like Whole Foods and Walmart are an old scammer favorite. Reports about bogus offers to make money driving around with your car wrapped in ads are also common. Reports show job scammers also target people who post their resumes to employment websites like Indeed. In most of these reports, scammers use checks that turn out to be fake to trick people into sending them money.
Not-really-from-Amazon security alerts
Like fake bank texts, texts from someone who says they’re “Amazon” look like automated fraud prevention messages. Often, they ask you to verify a big-ticket order you didn’t make. If you call the number in the text, you get a phony Amazon rep who offers to “fix” your account. People often report giving the rep remote access to their phone so they can get things fixed and get their refund. But then the rep says a couple of zeros were accidentally added to the refund, so they need you to return that money to them – often by buying gift cards and giving the cards’ PIN numbers.
Now that you know the most common scams, what are some steps you can take to protect yourself from being a victim?
- Never click on links or respond to unexpected texts. If you think it might be legit, contact the company using a phone number or website you know is real. Don’t use the information in the text message.
- Filter unwanted texts before they reach you. Many phones have an option to block messages from unknown senders, and some wireless providers offer services to block calls. There are also apps available that can block calls and text messages.
If you think you have received a scam text message, you can report it in one of the following ways:
- Forward the text to 7726 (SPAM). This helps your wireless provider spot and block similar messages.
- Report it on either the Apple iMessages app or Google’s Messages app for Android users.
- Report it to the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.
More information about how to spot and avoid scams and how to recover money if you’ve paid a scammer is available at ftc.gov/scams.
Ray Wills is the security officer at F&M Trust.
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