How to Identify and Report Text Scam

Scams are becoming increasingly more common. The most effective of these scams target people with a high level of stress or anxiety. They may also be a major annoyance since they create havoc in their lives. In 2020, many fell victim to the Walmart text scam, which led to a lot of problems for these people.

The goal of SMS frauds is nearly always the same: to steal your money by obtaining your personal information, and they are they’re constantly evolving. In 2019, the Better Business Bureau’s Scam Tracker initiative added 47,567 distinct text frauds to its database. It is an alarming number, and it is best to educate yourself about it to avoid falling victim to text scams.

What is a Text Scam?

A text scam is an unsolicited electronic communication that attempts to obtain personal information about you, your online accounts, or your money.

The ease with which scammers may appear to be someone else over text is one of the most significant issues with text scams. Scammers can impersonate a bank, an email provider, or any other real business simply by including their name in the text message using this technology.

Text scams vary, but the most prevalent are attempts to entice you with offers that are too good to be true. It can be as free items or money from a well-known store. These messages may also get you motivated by pretending to be a friend or family member in need and offering fake information about a transaction or account (such as delivery).

What are the Risks and Dangers of Text Scams?

One of the most obvious dangers is stealing money from you. They simply want your credit card or bank details and will pay for nothing. The scammers mostly promise you a quick way to make money but never return the final funds. Other than outright identity theft, the mobile phone users are also warned about possible outcomes of the scam, such as:

  • Malware: When you click on a link or launch an attachment that comes with the SMS, your phone will be infected by viruses. It can potentially lead to malware being installed on your device, obtaining personal information.
  • Unwanted Charges: Sometimes scammers get access to your phone number and sell their services at a price you did not intend. If you become a victim of phone fraud, you may see incorrect charges on your subsequent phone bill due to your interaction with the scammers.
  • Spreading of Scams: The scammers can include a link or an attachment that sends the SMS to your contacts. If you are not careful, it may lead to the loss of money for you and others.

What are the Ways to Identify Spam Text Messages?

Ways to Identify Spam Text Messages

What can you do if you receive a suspicious text message? Take a breath before responding. Before responding or clicking on any link, you must know what to look for in a text scam versus a genuine text message.

Using these five indicators, you can tell if an uncertain message is a text fraud, but these signals may not be present in all scam text messages.

1. Messages from Long Numbers

A 6-digit Short Code (like 788788), a 10-digit toll-free number (855-462-2885), or a local text-enabled business phone are usually utilized to distribute legitimate SMS marketing messages. If you received a text message from an 11-digit number unknown to you, there’s a good chance it’s a scam.

Even if they tell you they’re your bank, realtor, insurance agent, etc., check the number from which the message was sent. The potential of this event is low, but it’s still something to be cautious about!

2. Text Refund

Another frequent text scam claims money is owed to you. It’s not uncommon for a scammer to request money in the guise of reimbursing expenses for your trip or services. A fraudulent refund is generally offered by a “government” agency or a monthly billing program (such as your cell phone provider) informing you that you were “overcharged.”

They will frequently encourage you to provide direct deposit information to reverse the charge. Once they have your routing number, they can log in to your account and steal from you.

3. Prizes with Text Message

Another one of the most prevalent text scams is also the easiest to spot. Recipients get a text informing them that they’ve won something, such as a prize, gift certificate, or something similar.

You’ll receive an email with a hyperlink or a message asking to claim the prize. You are often advised to contact out to claim the reward, whether it’s through a hyperlink or a response. However, this is only their attempt to obtain your personal information.

If you didn’t enter to win anything and ignore the message, that’s fine. If you’re unsure if you did (let’s face it, we all enter contests hoping for something now and then), go to the brand’s verified website or social media accounts to double-check.

4. Family Crisis Text Messages

Another common text scam pretends to be an emergency, claiming that a family member was in an accident or arrested and needs money to get out of jail or hospital costs. You’ll then be directed to send the cash immediately through Western Union or other methods.

Compared with SMS marketing messages, these texts might be quite frightening, which is why they succeed. Before you do anything or send cash:

  • Take a step back.
  • Attempt to verify the person’s identity by asking questions to which a stranger could not know the answers.
  • Reach out to a close relative or friend to confirm the scammer’s tale. You may also call 1-877-FTC-HELP for help.

What are the common Text Scam Messages?

Over the years, there have been text scams that victimize people worldwide. Here are some of the most common ones:

Bank Scams

“Something weird is going on with your bank account,” the suspicious message reads. The sender requests that you contact them as soon as possible and include your debit or credit card number for verification.

Learning what type of text messages your bank sends out is an excellent way to determine whether a text message from it is genuine. Bank of America will use shortcode numbers for notifications, but it will never ask clients for personal or financial information in a text message.

Government text scams

When it comes to government text messages, they are unlikely to contact you first over text. The IRS, for example, notes on its website that it will not “contact taxpayers by email, text message or social media channels to request personal or financial data.”

Prize text messages

Many people have received messages saying they’ve won an international lottery, such as the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes. The message usually includes a contact number and urges recipients to respond as soon as possible to deliver their winnings. But these are likely phishing scams. No one wins those lotteries except the companies themselves.

Work-from-home Scams

People pretend to be employers hiring workers for legitimate work-at-home jobs. They request personal information, such as Social Security numbers and bank account information. These are fraudulent messages.

Family Emergency Scams

In these text messages, scammers pose as a family member in distress and require financial help. They usually ask the recipient to wire money via Western Union or MoneyGram quickly, or it’s even possible that they may instruct you to obtain a calling card for a mobile subscription.

How to Prevent Spam Text Messages?

Prevent Spam Text Messages

Spam texts clog up your text inbox and send you annoying notifications, but you could be paying for trash if you don’t have unlimited texting on your cell plan. And some spam messages include links to malware that may be harmful.

It’s in your best interests to attempt to avoid or at least minimize spam text messages. Here are some steps that you can take.

1. Don’t respond to unsolicited text messages.

You’re undoubtedly familiar with the option to reply “STOP” to stop future text messages from recognized sources. Many spammers allow you to respond STOP but don’t do it.

Spamming contacts you recently blocked may spam your cell phone or email address with messages pushing promotional offers or related product sales. Spammers may use any of your replies, including STOP, as a signal that you received their message and are presently engaged in your conversations, which can encourage them to send you more communications. Information about people who have supplied contact information to spammers could also be sold or traded.

2. Filter potential spammers

Many cellphones include a setting that automatically removes possibly spam texts from lists so they don’t pollute the same list with reputable contacts.

To prevent spam and other harmful communications on an iPhone, go to Settings > Messages and select “Filter Unknown Senders.” By swiping the button to the right, you may enable this function.

Open the Messaging app on Android and tap the three dots at the top right. In the drop-down menu, choose “Settings,” then “Spam Protection.” Finally, switch on “Enable spam protection” by swiping it to the right.

3. Report text spammers or callers to your cellular provider

You may report spammers to your phone service provider to stop unwanted texting. For most major carriers, including AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon, you may copy the bad message and send it to 7726.

You should get a response, which, depending on the carrier, may include a request to provide the source of the spam. It will not guarantee immediate success for you, but it will assist in cleaning up the texting environment for everyone.

4. Use a paid application to block unwanted text messages.

Whether it’s in the form of phone calls or text messages, spam may be significantly reduced with an app like RoboKiller, which is available for both iPhone and Android. These apps aren’t free, however. RoboKiller has a 7-day free trial but costs $5 per month or $40 per year after that.

5. Block spammers who keep sending the same message to your subscribers.

If you get a lot of spam from the same phone number, you can use your messaging software to prevent it. However, don’t rely on this method. If most spammers can operate with a different number each time, they contact you, blocking individual numbers may be ineffective.

What should You do when you Realize a Text Scam?

If you receive an unexpected text message asking for personal information, click on any links. Genuine companies won’t ask for access to your account via text messaging.

If you believe the message may be authentic, call the company using a phone number or website you know is genuine. It’s not what’s in the text message.

There are various ways to prevent harmful text messages from reaching you.

  • On your phone – If you’re receiving a lot of spam or unsolicited text messages, your phone may have a feature to filter and block these communications.
  • Through your wireless provider – If your wireless company offers a tool or service to block calls and text messages, you may use it. Ctia.org is a good resource for finding out about the various alternatives from different carriers.
  • With a call-blocking app – Some call-blocking applications also enable you to block unwanted text messages. For a list of Android, BlackBerry, Apple, and Windows phone call-blocking applications, go to ctia.org.

Realizing that you have received a text scam should not cause panic and stress. You are one step closer to stopping spam messages. And once you report the messages, authorities will be able to prevent them from continuing.

How to report text scams?

It’s essential to let the FTC know about text scams. You can file a complaint by forwarding them spam texts, screenshots of texts, and any other details you have that could help investigate the issue.

There are a few ways to report text scams:

  1. Paste it into a text message to 7726 (SPAM). A pop-up will appear if you long-press the message. Then start a new thread and paste.
  2. Notify the company or brand that the text fraud is impersonating. Large businesses will have a webpage where you can report a text scam.
  3. File a complaint with the FTC about this text fraud. The FTC is an agency that “protects consumers and competition by preventing anticompetitive, deceptive, and unfair business practices through law enforcement, advocacy, and education without unduly restricting legitimate commercial activity.”
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