Cheryl Parson: How to avoid falling victim to text scams


By Cheryl Parson - Better Business Bureau



A new “Scam-A-Thon” is traveling around the United States, targeting people via their mobile phones. Unsuspecting victims receive texts that appear to be from delivery services, government agencies, or other trusted businesses.

While the scams themselves aren’t anything new, the “text” method of delivery is a recent and growing phenomenon, known as ”smishing.” Scammers know and understand consumers trust text messages and are much more apt to read and click the mobile links in a text than those in an email. Combine that with the fact that nine people in 10 possess a mobile device and you’ll realize scammers have a pipeline for fraud and identity theft. The bulk of the money that fraudsters generate is not from money sent directly to them, but by criminals emptying bank accounts and charging credit cards to the max, using information gleaned from details the victims have unwittingly provided. Scammers need only a handful of responses to generate lots of ill-gotten money.

Interestingly, younger people may actually be more likely to get scammed via texts than older folks. They have grown up with and expect texts from friends or institutions that they know and are less likely to question a text’s authenticity. They are also more likely to get texts on the go when they’re busy or distracted.

We’ve received reports of several text scam scenarios from consumers. Here are just a few:

1. In the most common one, consumers receive a text from well-known companies, such as Amazon or Walmart, stating the company had attempted to deliver a package and in order to assure delivery before the package is returned to the company, the consumer must click on a link or dial a call-back number to verify they still want the package.

2. In another common text scam making the rounds, a text, seemingly from a government agency, is received stating, “Your stimulus check has been returned three times. Click here to track it…”

3. In yet another, one supposedly from a bank, the consumer is informed by text, “CHASE NA: A new payee AMY WATSON has been set up in your online banking, if this was not you secure here: …”

Text messages are the latest way fraudsters try to pry information and money from you. To avoid falling victim to text schemes, here are a few simple suggestions to consider before responding:

1. Take some time to properly look at the entire content of any message you receive. Look for weird email addresses and phone numbers, as well as language or punctuation errors. Legitimate texts from businesses, banks or government agencies will not contain errors.

2. Even if you don’t spot any errors, take a deep breath, and wait. Do not respond. Allow yourself time to think and figure out if it is normal for the company or agency to communicate with you by text.

3. Never click any links sent to you via text message unless you are expecting it or have verified the sender is legitimate first.

4. If you receive a text message asking you to change your password or check your order status, DO NOT click the link. Go directly to the organization’s trusted website to search for a legitimate phone number and call them yourself to verify or work out a problem.

5. If you receive a strange text don’t let the sender know you are a “real person” by responding. Responding sets you up for additional bogus texts and scam attempts.

Protect yourself. As one cybersecurity expert said, “Assume every text you get from a sender you don’t recognize, might be from someone trying to rip you off.”

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By Cheryl Parson

Better Business Bureau

Cheryl Parson is president of the Better Business bureau serving West Central Ohio. The BBB may be found on the Internet at www.lima.bbb.org.

Cheryl Parson is president of the Better Business bureau serving West Central Ohio. The BBB may be found on the Internet at www.lima.bbb.org.

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