Receiving a random text message with a link may stoke your curiosity, but if you click on it, it just might be dangerous to your wallet.
“They’re trying to get to your personal information. And it depends on how trusting you are, how many of their questions you answer, until you’ve given up information that can be used against you or to steal money from you.”
Received a Random Text Message? Read This
Although they’ve been scarce as of late, I still receive scam text messages every now and then. Just two weeks ago, I got the following text message out of the blue.
How do I know it was a scam? Because I looked up the phone number of the sender. The same phone number had been reported as a scammer. Also, the number is not associated with the Georgia Department of Driver Services, which warns of text scams on its website. So I blocked the number.
This text message is a classic example of “smishing,” which is a common scam in which the crook uses the name of a reputable entity in hopes that you’ll click the link.
But when you get a random text message that seems suspicious, how can you know for sure? What should you look out for?
This article will give you details on a few common kinds of scam texts along with advice from Clark and consumer advocacy agencies on how you can avoid becoming a victim.
Let’s look at some common scam texts you should be aware of:
Don’t Be Fooled by These Random Text Messages
Crooks have reportedly sent fake flight cancellation notices to unsuspecting passengers. The text message may include a phone number to call.
According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), “When you call the number provided, the ‘airline’ offers to book you a new ticket — for a price. However, if you follow up with real airline support, you’ll discover that nothing was wrong with your original flight. The message was a scam, and you just gave your credit card details to a con artist.”
Many banks offer the option to get alerts sent to your phone about your account balance or recent deposits. But if you get a text with a link from your bank asking for personal information or informing you of a problem with your account, assume it’s a scam.
According to the BBB, “Scammers will use the opportunity to obtain your banking information. For example, a website may prompt for an ATM card number and PIN under the guise of ‘reactivating your ATM card.’ Other times, the link may download malicious software that gives scammers access to anything on the phone. A scammer on the phone may demand personal information such as your social security number.”
Scammers have also been known to send text messages pretending to be from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
A scam text from the “IRS” could say any number of things: the agency needs to verify your identity, you owe money or your tax return has been rejected.
Here’s what the agency says on its website: “Taxpayers need to remember that the IRS will not contact them by text message or social media and ask for personal or financial information.”
Credit Card Company
Consumers are also getting tricked into providing personal information to thieves posing as credit card companies.
Criminals will typically text you a message asking you to verify your identity due to a data breach, suspicious activity on your account or perhaps fraudulent activity.
Retailer Macy’s says, “Whenever you’re asked for personal information by email, phone or text message, we recommend that you call back the general published number for whatever company you’re dealing with, or that you go to the official Web site. If you have any doubt regarding the legitimacy of an email DO NOT respond or click on any links.”
And here are details from Visa’s website on how to recognize a spam text: “There’s a link instead of a phone number to call. … The text you receive may not contain the name of the bank or any other information. The text requests that you log in to your bank account to verify a transaction, enter your PIN, or provide a 3-digit CVV code.”
Here’s How Clark Handles Random Text Messages
Clark says he never trusts a text message from an unknown sender.
“When you receive a text and you don’t know the sender or even if you do know the sender and there’s a link in there they want you to click on, I wouldn’t click on the link unless it’s somebody you absolutely know with certainty.”
But what if your utility, airline, bank or credit card company has sent you a text message that seems to be legitimate? Here’s Clark’s advice:
“Go outside of that message that has been sent: Go to your web browser on that phone or on a laptop. Go sign into your account or use the app on your phone, and you will see whether or not there is an issue or problem you need to address. Period.”
How To Stop Scam Texts
Because criminals are constantly coming up with new scams, it has become increasingly difficult to stop scam texts, but you can reduce the number of suspicious text messages you get by forwarding them to 7726 (SPAM). Not only will this block the number from your phone, but it will blacklist it with your cell phone service provider.