How to spot a text message scam

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.

So what exactly is a text message scam?

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.

Suspicious Account Activity Texts.

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.

Payment Information Problem Texts.

“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.

Random Free Gift Texts.

“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.

Fake Package Delivery Notification Texts.

“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.

Last year the Better Business Bureau (BBB) added 47,567 different scams to their tracker. Learn how to spot them with ease.

How to spot a text message scam

The laws around text marketing are strict. As a reputable SMS software company, we take preventative measures to keep spam out of your inbox.

Unfortunately, savvy pirate programmers around the globe have found ways to send phishing text messages to defraud vulnerable folks.

And just when you think it could never happen to you, think again. At least 68% of people have reported receiving text message spam at least once.

Thankfully, these scams are not the norm thanks to the tight industry regulations. So the threat of receiving one of the messages shouldn’t discourage you from sharing your number with your favorite brands and businesses.

But to ensure you’re prepared, we’ll share the hallmark signs of a phishing scam and exactly what you can do to keep your information safe.

What Is a Phishing Text Message?

A phishing or scam message is a text sent with the intent to trick you into sharing your personal or financial information.

A successful text scam would result in sharing something like your private passwords or account/social security numbers. From there, things like your email, bank, and other personal accounts can be compromised.

The scammers who send these messages may attempt to chat with you directly. Asking you to share personal information to unlock an account or win a prize. Another approach includes sending a mass message with a link to a spoofed website. Any information you enter via that link can then be compromised and stolen.

The most severe phishing scams can download dangerous malware onto your phone that mines your data without your knowledge.

We’ve spoken a lot on this site about the dangers of phishing. If you don’t know what it means, it’s a clever way for hackers to trick you into giving away your username and password. This is often done by fooling someone into clicking a link through to a website where malware is automatically installed without them knowing. This malware can then log their keystrokes and send the information back to the hacker. Or people can be tricked into entering their username and password into a web form, thinking the site is genuine, but actually it’s a fake.

Phishing often takes place via email, but it can also take the form of bogus text messages, designed to deceive you into giving away control of your smartphone.

Fortunately, there are ways to spot illegitimate text messages and prevent giving away your virtual identity to a SMS scammer. Spot any of these warning signs, and it might be best to delete the message immediately.

  1. Unrecognized senders

When you receive the text message, look at the sender. If you don’t recognize the number, then it might be best to delete it. You should be particularly wary if the contact doesn’t look like a normal mobile number; scammers have been known to use email-to-text to avoid detection.

One of the worst things you can do is receive a message from an unrecognized sender and call them back. Many phishing attackers are experienced and highly convincing on the phone. They could trick you into parting with your personal information more easily when they’re actually speaking to you. Don’t text back either – even if the text says “send “STOP” to opt out.” This is a trick that lets the attacker know your phone number is in use.

  1. Requests for personal information

Organizations don’t ask for personal information from users via text message, so you should be suspicious of any request asking you to share your address, bank account details, or other private data.

  1. Texts containing links

Treat any text message which contains a link with caution, especially if you don’t recognize the sender. Chances are it’s an attempt to direct you to a fraudulent website. The link might attempt to impersonate a well-known website, but actually contain a concealed spelling mistake, such as “www.micorsoft.com”.

  1. Warnings about expiring accounts

Common SMS scams involve fraudsters impersonating well-known companies and informing people their accounts have expired. For example, a recent scam involved criminals pretending to be Apple and sending false notifications that their iCloud accounts have been deactivated. Treat any messages like this with suspicion.

  1. Poor standard of language

Another warning sign is the written style of the text message. Phishing attempts are often badly phrased and contain spelling errors. However, note that this isn’t always the case – sometimes they can be highly convincing.

As well as training yourself to spot these warning signs, another way to stop phishing attempts being successful is upgrading the security software on your smartphone. Make sure you’re updating your phone when upgrades become available. While these can be time-consuming and a little inconvenient, they’re definitely worth it.

Have you got any further questions about text message scams? Let us know by posting a comment below.

Scammers use email or text messages to trick you into giving them your personal information. They may try to steal your passwords, account numbers, or Social Security numbers. If they get that information, they could gain access to your email, bank, or other accounts. Scammers launch thousands of phishing attacks like these every day — and they’re often successful. The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center reported that people lost $57 million to phishing schemes in one year.

Scammers often update their tactics, but there are some signs that will help you recognize a phishing email or text message.

Phishing emails and text messages may look like they’re from a company you know or trust. They may look like they’re from a bank, a credit card company, a social networking site, an online payment website or app, or an online store.

Phishing emails and text messages often tell a story to trick you into clicking on a link or opening an attachment. They may

  • say they’ve noticed some suspicious activity or log-in attempts
  • claim there’s a problem with your account or your payment information
  • say you must confirm some personal information
  • include a fake invoice
  • want you to click on a link to make a payment
  • say you’re eligible to register for a government refund
  • offer a coupon for free stuff

Here’s a real world example of a phishing email.

How to spot a text message scam

Imagine you saw this in your inbox. Do you see any signs that it’s a scam? Let’s take a look.

  • The email looks like it’s from a company you may know and trust: Netflix. It even uses a Netflix logo and header.
  • The email says your account is on hold because of a billing problem.
  • The email has a generic greeting, “Hi Dear.” If you have an account with the business, it probably wouldn’t use a generic greeting like this.
  • The email invites you to click on a link to update your payment details.

While, at a glance, this email might look real, it’s not. The scammers who send emails like this one do not have anything to do with the companies they pretend to be. Phishing emails can have real consequences for people who give scammers their information. And they can harm the reputation of the companies they’re spoofing.

How To Protect Yourself From Phishing Attacks

Your email spam filters may keep many phishing emails out of your inbox. But scammers are always trying to outsmart spam filters, so it’s a good idea to add extra layers of protection. Here are four steps you can take today to protect yourself from phishing attacks.

Four Steps To Protect Yourself From Phishing

  • Something you have — like a passcode you get via an authentication app or a security key.
  • Something you are — like a scan of your fingerprint, your retina, or your face.

What To Do if You Suspect a Phishing Attack

If you get an email or a text message that asks you to click on a link or open an attachment, answer this question: Do I have an account with the company or know the person that contacted me?

If the answer is “No,” it could be a phishing scam. Go back and review the tips in How to recognize phishing and look for signs of a phishing scam. If you see them, report the message and then delete it.

If the answer is “Yes,” contact the company using a phone number or website you know is real. Not the information in the email. Attachments and links can install harmful malware.

What To Do if You Responded to a Phishing Email

If you think a scammer has your information, like your Social Security, credit card, or bank account number, go to IdentityTheft.gov. There you’ll see the specific steps to take based on the information that you lost.

If you think you clicked on a link or opened an attachment that downloaded harmful software, update your computer’s security software. Then run a scan.

How To Report Phishing

If you got a phishing email or text message, report it. The information you give can help fight the scammers.

Step 1. If you got a phishing email, forward it to the Anti-Phishing Working Group at [email protected]

If you got a phishing text message, forward it to SPAM (7726).

How to spot a text message scam

Ever received a text from an unknown number that had your hair stand up? Did it promise unrealistic gains or tried to scare you into doing something? It was probably a phishing text message (in other words, a text message scam).

If you don’t know what that is, don’t worry – 70% of people don’t either . However, we’re here to change that! So, let’s get started.

What is smishing?

How to spot a text message scam

Text message phishing or SMS phishing (smishing for short) is a type of phishing attack done in the form of an SMS. Threat actors use it to retrieve personal information by adding malicious links to the message, impersonating a bank or medical institution, or posing as an authoritative figure.

How to spot a text message scam

The term was first coined back in 2006. However, ProofPoint, a security software company that processes more than 80% of North America’s mobile messages, observed that between Q2 and Q3 of 2020, there was a 328% jump in smishing scams. That’s why it’s important to protect yourself now more than ever. I’ll go through some points to look out for whenever you receive a text message.

How to recognize text message scams

Common techniques used to trick people often aim to trigger emotions . This approach is very common in both phishing emails and spear phishing scams .

Hackers do this, so we act fast and without thinking. They know this method works best to persuade people into giving them personal information or money.

Look out for these five things to recognize phishing text scams:

How to report a phishing scam

Once you’ve identified that a text message is a phishing scam, there are five main ways to report it. Though there may be alternatives, I recommend going through any of these channels to ensure your report is used to later prevent others from falling for future text scams.

The institutions below are mostly for people in the US. If you’re from somewhere else, look up how to report smishing scams in your own country:

  1. Contact the US Government.
  2. Call the Federal Trade Commission.
  3. File a scam complaint to the FBI – Internet Crime Complaint Center IC3.
  4. Forward any suspicious messages to the number 7726 (SPAM).
  5. Report spam or junk for iOS or Android .

What happens if you click on a phishing text?

How to spot a text message scam

If you open a phishing text to read it, nothing will happen. Just don’t click on anything! Especially, don’t touch or open any links that lead to shady websites in general inside the SMS.

Also, avoid texts that contain pictures or attachments!

Can you get hacked by responding to a text message?

If you don’t open any links or files, or provide personal information, then no. Simply answering a text will not get you hacked.

However, it’s best to avoid any and all smishing texts altogether. As the saying goes, curiosity killed the cat . Don’t be that cat.

Spot smishing scams before they spot you

To avoid smishing scams, be sure to read the text messages you receive carefully. Watch out for urgent text messages and an authoritative tone of voice.

Anything else you find suspicious in your text messages, don’t tap on it! This goes for files, pictures, and other attachments.

Also, you can always learn more about phishing scams and how to avoid them. Our phishing quiz is a good place to start! Otherwise, check out our following blog posts about phishing!

How to spot a text message scam

Have you ever received a text message about an item you never ordered or someone telling you that you owe them money? If so, the chances are this could be a scam text message from people who are looking to take money from you.

How to spot a text message scam

While scammers also target people on email and via the telephone, scam text messages have recently become increasingly popular. To keep yourself safe from scammers, it’s important to know how to spot a scam text message and what to do if you think you’ve received one. Read on to find out how.

How to Spot a Scam Text Message

Scam text messages may look incredibly convincing, but Which? says there are often things you can look out for that give scammers away.

If the message is from an unknown number: A lot of organizations protect their ‘Sender ID’ so they won’t come through from a generic mobile number. However, some scammers can hijack a company’s Sender ID on smartphones. If you’re in doubt, reach out to the organization by contacting them via a number from their website.

Putting pressure on you for payment details: Scammers often try to tell you that you have a limited time to pay them or that you must pay immediately, otherwise you may face a ‘fine’. This is just a scare-tactic to try and make you act fast. Remember, a genuine company would rarely ask you to make changes to your account or ask for payment over text message without asking you to log into your account first.

Fake website address: If you are sent a website address check that it matches that of the organization. Again, this could look very similar to the real thing, so always look up an organization’s details independently to double check.

Spelling mistakes and odd wording: This is one of the biggest giveaways of a scam text message. Government departments, banks and, couriers will rarely often make spelling mistakes or grammatical errors, so if you spot one it’s a strong indication that it’s a scam.

How to report a scam text message

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recommends forwarding any suspicious text messages to the number 7726 (SPAM). This is number is completely free-of-charge and it will alert your network provider who will investigate the origin of the text and take action, if it’s found to be malicious.

What to Do if You’ve Already Responded to a Scam Text Message

If you fall victim to a scam text message, follow these suggestions below…

If you are contacted by someone you don’t recognise, and they ask for personal details or financial information – this could be a scam text message.

Be cautious if confirming any personal information including your email address, phone number, date of birth, or information on anyone in your family. Also, think carefully before clicking on web links or replying to a message either through a call or text message.

What to do if you received a call or text message that looks suspicious?

If you receive a suspicious call or a text message, don’t panic! Breathe and follow the following steps:

  • Pause
  • Challenge
  • Safeguard

First: Pause and think

Don’t be pressured.

  • Fake text messages with web links: Don’t immediately click on a link, no matter how urgent it says the message is. Attackers like to use urgency as a strategy to lure you into their nets.

How to spot a text message scam

  • If someone has called you, or if you’ve dialled a number you’ve been given in a message, don’t be pressured in to answering questions if you are not comfortable – think about if it is reasonable for that source to be asking for that information. It’s fine to refuse to answer requests, especially if they are pressuring you.

One example of scam calls to be aware of is the one recently reported in Ireland where an automated message informs the recipient that their PPS number has been compromised and requests them to Press 1 to speak with an investigator or official. The caller is then asked to provide personal data.”

*Don’t ever share your personal data such as your PPS number, passport or bank details with anyone.

  • If you have a missed call from a number you don’t recognise, don’t immediately call back

Secondly: Challenge (or test)

If it’s a phone call – Ask the caller to identify whom they are calling from in a way that you can check.

For example, ask them for a number that you can call back on, that you can verify on a website you feel you can trust.

If it’s a message – check the number in your favourite search engine. If it is legitimate, it should be listed on the website of the company or source that you trust.

You can also use the Google Safe Browsing Site checker tool, to verify if the site is unsafe.

Note that with current teleworking, that businesses aren’t always calling from a number you may recognise. However, all businesses should be aware of what programmes they’re running and what their fraud processes are. If in any doubt, hang up or don’t reply and call back on a number that you trust. They should be able to put you through to the right person.

Lastly: Safeguard

If you have provided any information or details and now believe they could be a scam – contact your bank and credit card company immediately, and let them know what has happened. Also report it to your appropriate fraud authority, for example www.actionfraud.police.uk

If you are especially worried, you can also contact organisations that provide services to reduce risk of fraud.

For example, in the UK there is CIFAS.org.uk who for a small fee can provide a protective registration service. These services should mean extra checks are done should anyone apply for a loan using your personal details – to verify it’s you, and not a fraudster. Similar services are available in North America and across Europe. This gives you additional peace of mind.

Think before you click / respond

Always remember that attackers will try to create a sense of urgency in you so that you react without thinking. For that reason, it is very important that you keep control, question any text messages or calls you receive, and if in doubt, go directly to the source of the message to verify the veracity of the message.

How to spot a text message scam

Why you’re being inundated with so many scam messages?

Australia is rife with conversation about the inundation of scam text messages we have all experienced recently; but why is it happening, and what you can do about it?

Some scam text messages are easy to spot, with terrible typos and spelling or obviously fake website links that don’t fool many people, but some can trick the most savvy by appearing like legitimate communication, a particularly popular front has been that of a postal service sending tracking details to a package you’re ‘expecting’.

These types of texts have been around for a long time, but the volume of them has increased a staggering amount in the last year.

According to the Australian Government’s ScamWatch agency, as a result of these scams, Australia’s yearly losses have almost doubled to a massive $5.8 million as of August 2021.

Why have the amount of scam messages increased?

The main reason that there has been such a surge in scam messages, is because while the cheapest way to distribute scams is email, any good email service now has such efficient spam filters that they get blocked before they even hit your inbox.

Unless you have trusted third party mobile security, the SMS function of mobile phones doesn’t come with the same level of security and protection.

The second reason for the increase in text scamming, is very alarming that they are quite effective.

ScamWatch have reported that the ‘cost per incident’ rate in Australia has drastically increased, this is measured based on the amount that people are losing compared to the amount of complaints they’ve received.

The risk of such incidents however, isn’t just financial. Some scam texts are designed to infect phones with malicious software, which hands over control to the scammer.

What can I do to protect myself from these attacks?

Unfortunately, there’s no simple way to stop receiving or even reducing how many of these messages you receive, but here are some things you can do to protect yourself:

1. Stay up to date on current scams and tactics using ScamWatch

2. Review the texts you receive from numbers you aren’t familiar with with a high level of skepticism

3. Never reply to a message or click on any of the attached links

4. If the message says that it has come from an official organisation,contact the organisation directly to seek validation

5. Block the number if possible

6. Consider reporting the incident to the Australian Communications and Media Authority

7. In the event that you have been compromised, contact ScamWatch to talk through the next steps

8. If it’s possible that your bank details have been taken, get in touch with your bank immediately to change your PIN, block transaction and protect your account

9. If your password has been obtained, change it immediately on every site and service you use it for. If the issue pertains to a work device, inform your IT department to see if you, or anyone else in the business has been compromised

10. Always ensure your devices are kept up-to-date with software upgrades and patches

Does your phone need protecting? Call our Cyber Security team today!

Keep in mind that any legitimate organisation will rarely use overly casual, aggressive or threatening language in an SMS.

While these tips will likely not stop you receiving the scam SMS’s, following our advice and performing regular system updates which have been designed to keep you protected, will hopefully keep the scammers out of your devices, and keep your information safe and secure.

To go to the next level and really protect your phone, give our cyber security team a call on 1300 350 292, or get in touch.

No one likes spam, but there are ways to learn why you’re receiving spam texts and how to stop text message scams before you fall for one.

How to spot a text message scam

We’d all like to believe we know a scam when we see one. You probably think, “that could never happen to me…” but a study by McAfee shows that over 97% of consumers were unable to correctly identify phishing scams when presented with them.

As digital communication has evolved so has the sophistication of hackers and scammers. In addition to phony phone calls and email phishing scams, text scams have become more common with the proliferation of smartphones and the emergence of text messages as a part of everyday communication. This type of fraud is also known as “smishing.”

SMS phishing (aka smishing) is the fraudulent solicitation of your personal information through the use of text messaging. Although far less common than other kinds of digital dupes, smishing can be effective due to the personal nature of our inbox. After all, texts are reserved for close friends, family, and businesses who we have consented to connect with.

So, how can you protect yourself from smishing scams and spot them before it’s too late? We have the low down on all the warning signs as well as what to do if you encounter one.

💡SimpleTexting Tip: To help you out, we have a team dedicated to compliance who monitor messages sent through ST for suspicious activity to ensure our platform is only used for good!

5 Tips To Identify Fake Text Messages or Text Scams

While each text scam looks a little different, there are some common hallmarks of these messages you can look out for that serve as dead giveaways for fraud.

1. Unusually Long Numbers

Legitimate SMS marketing messages are often sent from a 6-digit short code (like 711711), a 10-digit toll-free number (ex: 844-462-2554) or a local text enabled business phone. If you were to receive a text message from an unidentified 11-digit number, the odds are high that it’s a scam.

So, even if they identify themselves as your bank, realtor, insurance agent, etc. you should look to the number the message was sent from for verification. The potential of this happening is low, but it is still something to be wary of!

2. Random Family Emergency Texts

The family emergency scam is one of the most common tricks according to the FCC. In this instance, you’ll receive a text message saying something along the lines of “your family member who lives in __ (or is traveling in __) has run into some trouble. They’re in need of financial help and a money transfer is the only way to help them.” In some instances, they can even say that contacting this family member will cause them danger.

These texts can be very frightening, which is why they work. However, before you take any action or send money, take a pause. Attempt to verify the person’s identity by asking questions a stranger couldn’t know the answers to. Reach out to a trusted family member or friend to verify the scammer’s story (even if they say to keep it a secret). And always feel free to call 1-877-FTC-HELP for advice.