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3 Popular Text Messaging Scams And How To Avoid Victimization

In 2021, The FBI's Internet Crime Complain Center identified a staggering 323,972 victims of phishing and phishing-related crimes. To put this in perspective, not only did these crimes produces the most victims in 2021, but they produced more than the next 8 most prevalent cybercrimes combined. These rapidly-evolving crimes include phishing (using emails and links), vishing (using phone calls and voicemails), pharming (which involved malicious code and fraudulent websites), and our topic of choice, smishing.

One of the most common ways scammers target victims is by cell phone, and more specifically, through text messages (SMS). These fraudulent and spam texts are a form of text message phishing, known as smishing. While there are new scams popping up nearly every day, here are 3 text message scams that have become increasingly common in recent years, as well as what to watch out for, information on how they work, what their goal is, information on how to spot them, and how to avoid being deceived and victimized by cybercriminals:

Smishing Scams:

Smishing is a type of phishing scam that uses text messages to trick victims into sharing personal or financial information (i.e. passwords, credit card/banking information, etc.) or even downloading malware by accessing seemingly legitimate links. The goal of these scams is to steal the victim's personal details, indentity, or money. Smishing messages often appear to be from a legitimate source, such as a bank or credit card company, and may include a link to a fake website that asks the victim to enter their login credentials or other personal information.

To avoid being victimized by smishing scams, it is important to:

  • Be suspicious of any unsolicited text messages, especially if they ask for personal or financial information.

  • Verify the identity of the sender before clicking on any links or entering any information.

  • Never click on links in text messages from unknown senders.

Although many of these scams are pretty convincing, sometimes even attempting to create a sense of urgency or panic when trying to get you to verify information or click a link, it is important to know that your bank will never text you in an attempt to have you confirm your personal or banking details, and they will never text you to send them money either, for any reason.

Common Smishing Scams

Lottery & Sweepstakes Scams:

Lottery and sweepstakes scams use text messages to inform victims that they have won a large sum of money or a high-value prize, and often instruct them to respond with personal information or payment ("just pay for shipping and handling," processing fees, or taxes) in order to claim the prize. The goal of these scams, like most other, is also to steal the victim's money or identity, not through fear or panic, but rather excitement and by appealing to one's emotions. After all, especially during a pandemic and times of economic uncertainty, who wouldn't want to be the winner of a lottery's jackpot, an all-expenses paid for cruise, or a new car?! Upon receiving texts claiming to be from a trusted organization claiming you've won a contest you don't remember entering, it is best to stop, exit, and verify the message's legitimacy before clicking any links, entering any personal information, or quitting your job to claim those lottery winnings.

To avoid being victimized by lottery scams, it is important to:

  • Be wary of any unsolicited text messages that claim you have won a prize or lottery.

  • Verify the legitimacy of the lottery or prize before responding or providing any information.

  • Never provide personal information or payment to claim a prize.

  • Remember that, especially with lottery and sweepstakes scams, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Package Delivery Scams:

Package delivery scams have become both increasingly popular and more difficult to spot. They use text messages and emails to inform victims that a package is waiting for them, but that they must pay a fee or provide personal information in order to receive it.

Additionally. they may inform their target that the delivery date for their package has changed or been updated and that they must enter their personal information to see the updates. These are common both via text and email. A common example of this involves receiving messages from someone claiming to be UPS, stating that they attempted to deliver a package to you but missed you.

Not only have these scams become more sophisticated, they often are successful due to the popularity of online shopping and how many people are waiting for the delivery of an Amazon or other online order's package on any given day. The goal of these scams is also to steal personal information, and these scams are known to fool even the smartest people.

To avoid being victimized by package delivery scams, it is important to:

  • Be suspicious of any unsolicited text messages that claim a package is waiting for you.

  • Verify the legitimacy of the delivery company and the package before providing any information or payment.

  • Never provide personal information or payment to receive a package that you were not expecting.

  • Confirm shipping details of packages you ordered with the company you purchased them from.

In general, it is important to be wary of any unsolicited text messages that ask for personal or financial information. Scammers often use text messages because they are easy and inexpensive to send, and because many people are more likely to trust messages that appear to come from a legitimate source or an individual claiming to be a representative from a well-known company.

To avoid being victimized by text message scams, it is important to be vigilant, stay informed regarding the latest cybersecurity threats, verify the identity of the sender, and never provide personal or financial information to unknown or unverified sources. Again, legitimate companies are not going to ask for your personal information over the phone, and if you ever run into a situation where you just aren't sure, contact the company these texts are claiming to come from to verify the legitimacy of these messages, then report this to the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center.

If you're interested in learning more about fraud/scam prevention training classes, please contact us here.


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