How to Identify a Text Message Scam

Last year there was a record increase in spam text messages. Scammers sent billions of texts and coerced victims out of more than $10 billion collectively. While many of us have gotten more savvy about filtering out email scams, text message scams do manage to fool many, even those of us who think we are far too discerning to fall for one.

person's hands holding a smartphone about to tap on the screen

What to Watch Out for in a Text Message Scam

The trickiest part of a good text message scam is that it is easily believable. Many text message scams come from realistic numbers claiming to be from a company you use, know, and trust, and create a sense of urgency to get you to act. For example, you may get a text that claims to be from Amazon, telling you there have been attempts to access your account and your account is now locked. It includes a link to click where you can verify your identity. You know Amazon. You use Amazon. Amazon has your phone number and has texted you delivery confirmations before. And you certainly don’t want your account – which includes your payment information as well as plenty of personal information – to be compromised. So…do you click?

The red flags are there. Most likely the link will be shortened or scrambled, the text won’t sound quite right grammatically or may have spelling mistakes, and you haven’t had any other indications of suspicious activity. Scammers know that we worry about being scammed, so they embrace that and will try to look like a fraud alert from your bank, credit card company, or other trusted business. Sometimes, the sender may request a call back or a request for verification of certain information. Sometimes, the scammer won’t play on your fear, but will play on your willingness to accept good news. It may offer a reward, prize, or refund for clicking a link. All of these red flags indicate there is a scam attempt underway.

Text Message Scammers Don’t Always Impersonate Companies

Sometimes scammers will pretend to be colleagues, family, or friends. You may get a text from your “boss” or “co-worker”, apologizing for using a different phone, but asking you to respond right away, via text, usually with a request for money or gift cards, ensuring you you’ll be reimbursed, but you need to get a gift card for a client ASAP and send them the number and code. You may get a text claiming to be from a friend or family member in crisis, asking for immediate monetary help. These can be easier to discern, as they typically will sound stilted or just “off”.

What Should You Do if You Think You’ve Gotten a Scam Message?

First of all, do not reply. It can be very tempting to call out a scammer, but all you’ve done is let them know that the line is active and you’re willing to engage. Scammers can be very convincing, and once you’ve engaged, they will double down and continue the scam. The next step is to check, via a legitimate channel, on the security of your accounts. Go directly to Amazon, Netflix, your bank, your credit card, or your friend and check. If a scammer asks for a call back on a random number, call the official number and go through the right channel, verify that all is well with your accounts, and block the number.

What if You Clicked on the Link?

Scammers can be very convincing. If you clicked on a link in a text scam, take the right steps to protect yourself. First, disconnect from your Wi-Fi or mobile network. Scammers can send data from your mobile device, so cut them off. Next, change your passwords immediately and turn on multi-factor authentication. This will help protect your accounts. You may even want to contact your bank or credit card and let them know so they can be on the lookout for fraudulent activity. Finally, scan your device for malware or viruses. There are different programs for mobile devices that can recognize and remove malicious files.

Scamming is everywhere. The best things you can do to protect yourself is to keep your phone number private, ignore and block any suspicious texts, use spam blocking tools on your phone, and always be on the lookout for anything that doesn’t seem right. Scammers count on trust and complacency, so being vigilant with any electronic communication is your best defense. Staying safe online through best practices like this is a great way to ensure you can enjoy all the benefits the online world has to offer without leaving your personal information at risk. To learn more about cybersecurity best practices, or to inquire about our data destruction services, contact AccuShred today.