If you have a cell phone, it’s likely that you’ve received a text message at some point from a strange, unknown phone number. It’s possible that text message was from a scammer trying to steal your money or personal information. As more people use their phones to shop, check email, access their bank accounts, and more, text message scams have become increasingly common. In 2020, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Americans lost $86 million to text message scams. So how can you protect yourself? Your first weapon of defense is knowing what to look out for when you receive an unsolicited text message.
A text message scam is a tactic scammers use to steal your money and personal information. Scammers use convincing text messages impersonating a legitimate business, financial institution, or government agency to entice you to click a link and provide your personal information. If you receive this type of text and click on the link, it may infect your device with malware or a virus that steals the information and data stored on your device. In addition, responding to these unsolicited text messages by calling the number or replying to the message, may also lead to your personal information being compromised.
Here are a few common examples of text scams and tips on how to spot them.
Example: “AllSouth FCU: We’ve detected suspicious activity on your account ending in 1234. Please call us at 803-123-1234 immediately.”
Sometimes, financial institutions will send legitimate texts alerting their customers of fraud (We do!), but it’s also a tactic scammers have started using to steal your personal information. So before you react to an alarming text like this, it’s important to take a closer look at the text to determine if it’s real.
In this case, pay attention to a few things. First, do you have an account with the institution sending the text? If you don’t have a relationship with the institution the text is claiming to be sent from, don’t respond and delete the message. The text may also include misspellings or use words such as “immediately” or “urgent” to entice you to react quickly. These are also red flags.
If the text message looks legitimate, but you’re still not sure, call your financial institution to confirm. It’s essential to verify that the phone number you’re calling is actually your financial institution’s phone number by checking their website.
“We had an issue processing your payment. Please update your billing information: example.com/1234”
Receiving a text message that a recent payment you made didn’t go through can also be alarming. Unfortunately, this is another example of a text message that scammers may use to steal your personal information.
By clicking on the link, your device may be infected by malware that steals personal data stored on your device. Therefore, it’s essential to look closely at the URL or web address included in the text. If the URL consists of random letters, numbers, and misspellings, be cautious. It may also send you to a fake site where you could be prompted to enter your personal information.
If you’re concerned that a recent payment of yours actually didn’t go through, it’s best to call the company using the phone number you have from a statement or their website to confirm.
“You’ve been selected to receive a $1,000 gift card. Respond now to claim.”
Who hasn’t dreamed about winning a grand prize? Unfortunately, scammers know this and will try to prey on people’s vulnerability to get their money or personal information.
If you respond to a text like this, the scammers may then give instructions for claiming the fake prize or refund. They may even ask you to send money or your account information to redeem your winnings, which you’ll never receive. So if it sounds too good to be true or if something doesn’t seem quite right, don’t respond. It’s most likely a scam.
“Your order number #12345432 is on its way! To track its location, click here:”
These types of text messages seem harmless, but if there’s a link, there’s a chance it could be a scam. Even if you didn’t make a recent purchase, these texts are enticing enough to make you click to see if maybe you actually did purchase something you forgot about. If you aren’t expecting a package, you certainly shouldn’t click the link or respond to the message.
If you are, here are a few more questions you can ask yourself to determine if it’s an actual text message. Does the order number or tracking number provided match the information in your order confirmation email that you received when you placed your order? Are there other ways – by not clicking the link – to check to see if your package is on its way? Many times, legitimate companies will provide a tracking link in an email as well. Overall, it’s best not to click on any links from unknown numbers.