Texting provides a cheap and convenient way for scammers to reach consumers, and the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel Network reported $330 million in losses to text scams in 2022, with a median reported loss of $1,000. This is more than double the reported losses in 2021 and five times the amount reported in 2019. Reports of text scams increased sharply in the first half of the pandemic and have yet to return to pre-pandemic levels.
Scammers use the quickness of text to get an upper hand. They attempt to persuade you with promises of something beneficial, a freebie, a package, or even a job. Additionally, they may try to make you feel alarmed, pretending someone has accessed your accounts. Nevertheless, all of these are simply lies intended to swindle you out of money and private data.
In 2022, approximately 40% of text scams were found to be one of the five most common varieties. All of these scams attempt to deceive by pretending to be from a legitimate company.
1) Imitation Banking Fraud Alerts
The FTC has reported an increase of nearly 20 times in texts impersonating banks since 2019. For example, scammers may send a false number demanding a reply regarding a supposed suspicious activity or a large transaction the victim did not make. When the person responds, they will receive a call from a false fraud department. Unfortunately, many of these victims have reported transferring money out of their account, with a median reported loss of $3,000. Additionally, some have even revealed their Social Security number and other personal information, possibly leading to identity theft. It is important to note if you receive any type of these texts, do not click on or reply back. Instead, call the number of your bank on the back of your debit card to ask if there is an issue.
2) Unnecessary “tokens of appreciation” that can prove to be costly
It might appear like a legitimate offer from a familiar company – such as your cell phone company or a major retailer – when a text appears offering a free gift, reward, or prize. However, be warned that it is all fraudulent. By clicking the link and paying a nominal “shipping fee,” you are in fact giving away your credit card information to a scammer, and reports have shown that this often leads to fraudulent charges.
3) Issues with counterfeit package delivery
When you’re expecting a package to arrive, be wary of text scams that appear to be from delivery services like the U.S. Postal Service, FedEx, and UPS. They will inform you of a problem with the delivery and provide a link to a fake website. Do not pay the “redelivery fee” that these scammers request, as it is a trick to get your credit card number. People have also reported providing these scammers with their personal information, including Social Security numbers.
4) Bogus Employment Opportunities
Reports of individuals being offered easy money for mystery shopping at big stores such as Whole Foods and Walmart have been around for a while. Fraudulent offers of money to have one’s car plastered with advertisements have also been reported. In addition, job scammers have been known to target jobseekers who have posted their resumes on sites like Indeed. Generally, fake checks that appear to be cleared are used to deceive people into sending money.
5) Security Warnings that aren’t really from Amazon
Fake texts claiming to be from Amazon often contain fraud prevention messages that ask for verification of a purchase that was not made. If someone calls the given number, they will reach a counterfeit Amazon representative who offers to “correct” the account issue. Unfortunately, some people have reported that the individual then requests the return of the refunded money, which is often done through buying gift cards and providing the PIN.
What steps can you take to prevent becoming a victim of text scams?
- Do not open links or answer to any unsolicited texts. To be sure if it is genuine, contact the organization through a phone number or website you trust. Refrain from using the details in the message.
- Prevent undesired texts from arriving. There are means to stop unwanted texts before they get to you.
- Check your accounts regularly. If you keep a close eye on accounts you’re more likely to spot fraud and take action to prevent any large transactions.
- Know who has access to your money. If you have family with access to the same accounts, check with them if you see any suspicious charges.
- Never give out personal information by text or email and question any call you did not initiate. You can always end the conversation and then call your financial institution directly to see if fraud claims are legitimate.
- Don’t wait – call your financial institution right away. If you think you’ve been the victim of fraud, call immediately and initiate action to stop further charges and request a new card.
Reporting can be a useful tool in preventing scams that may come in the form of text messages.
- Forwarding the message to 7726 (SPAM) can help your wireless provider detect and block similar messages.
- Apple and Google users can report the message on the respective iMessages or Messages app.
- Additionally, the FTC can be contacted at ReportFraud.ftc.gov for further action.
To better understand how to detect and prevent frauds – as well as how to get back the money you gave to a con artist – visit ftc.gov/scams.