Random Text Messages May Be Phishing Scams or Worse

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scam
Courtesy of Jan Vašek (Pixabay CC0)

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) advised consumers not to click on links found in unsolicited text messages and emails from unknown senders. Doing so could lead to the number one scam in 2021, identity theft.

Scammers will do anything to lure people into giving away their personal details, such as a password, account number, or Social Security number. Once they have the information, they can access a consumer’s bank, email, or other accounts. Then, they could sell the data to other scammers.

A few years ago, affiliate marketers inundated consumers with tens of millions of spam texts that promoted “free” products like Best Buy and Wal-Mart gift cards worth $1,000. Unfortunately, those who clicked the link did not get the item the test message indicated. Instead, unsuspecting individuals went onto deceptive websites where they were asked for their personal information and to sign up for subscriptions and “special offers” to get the offered merchandise.

Some scammers might claim there is a problem with a person’s payment information or send a fake package delivery notification. The consumer could receive a phony invoice and then be told to contact the scammer if the purchase was unauthorized.

Scam
Courtesy of Andrés Rodríguez (Pixabay CC0)

Other identity theft scams are found in emails from unknown senders that could download a virus to a computer or phone if the consumer clicks on the link. In addition, clicking on similar links may result in malware that steals personal information without the victim realizing what is happening.

The messages may provide some personal information to claim the offer or gift. The data might be the recipient’s income, debt, bank account, or Social Security Card. In addition, scammers may tell consumers to click on the link to learn more. “Some links may take you to a spoofed website that looks real, but it isn’t,” according to the FTC. Once the person logs in, their user name and password could be stolen.

Legitimate companies will not request personal information by text. However, if there is some question about its validity, the FTC recommends consumers contact the business using the phone number or website known to be true. Do not use the information in the message.

Consumers can use their messaging app to file a “spam text message” report. They can copy the message and forward it to 7726 (SPAM). Or they can be reported to the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.

Written by Cathy Milne-Ware

Sources:

FTC Consumer Alerts: Random text? Wait, wait, don’t click that! By Bridget Small
FTC Consumer Alerts: The top frauds of 2021; by Bridget Small
FTC Consumer Alerts: How To Recognize and Report Spam Text Messages

Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Jan Vašek’s Pixabay Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy of Andrés Rodríguez’s Pixabay Page – Creative Commons License

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