AARP Eye Center
Phone Scams: Robotexts Are On The Rise!
If you have a cell phone, you've probably noticed an increase in text messages from people you don't know. According to call-security firm RoboKiller, Americans are receiving 18% more spam texts, also known as smishing, compared to last year.
This is particularly concerning given how effective this tactic is. The Federal Trade Commission reported $330 million in losses last year to fraudulent texts. We expect this is just a fraction of losses, given vast underreporting by fraud victims.
With smishing scams on the rise, here's what you need to know.
How It Works
- You receive a text message claiming to be a legitimate business or government agency.
- You could be warned of an urgent issue with your bank or retail account or a shipment..
- Or the message tries to entice you with the promise of free prizes, gift cards, coupons or deals.
- You'll be instructed to click a link to learn more, pursue an offer or resolve a problem.
- You may also be asked to provide personal information—such as your banking info, credit card number or Social Security number.
What You Should Know
- Criminals use caller ID spoofing to make the text appear to be coming from a trusted or local source.
- Clicking a link may take you to a spoofed website that looks real but isn't, such as that of a financial institution. If you attempt to log in, the criminals can steal your username and password.
- Other links might install harmful malware on your phone that steals your personal or financial information without you realizing it.
- Beyond suspicious or mysterious links, warning signs of fraudulent texts include urgency, misspellings, sales pitches and misleading or incomplete information.
- Remember that government agencies almost never initiate contact by phone or text.
What You Should Do
- Do not engage with texts from unknown numbers or others that appear suspicious, even if the message says you can "text STOP" to avoid more messages. (This confirms your number is active, which will lead to more scam texts.)
- Avoid clicking on links from texts; rather, type the web address into your browser directly, use your app if that's an option, or call the "sender" using a verified phone number.
- Never share sensitive personal or financial information by text.
- Report texting scam attempts to your wireless service provider by forwarding them to 7726 (or "SPAM").
- Filter out junk texts by updating your phone's messaging app settings, using call-blocking services through your wireless carrier, or installing call-blocking apps.
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