The Federal Trade Commission estimates text messaging scams cost consumers around $330 million last year, over double the amount in 2021. Random text messages from unknown numbers are significantly more likely to be opened than unsolicited emails, reaching numbers closing in on 98 percent. Opened emails are noted to be closer to 20 percent, for comparison.
Text message scams affect individuals as well as businesses and the rate at which they’re being sent is deemed “alarming” by the Federal Trade Commission.
“Aside from the fact that your family and friends may be among the consumers who have reported median personal losses of $1,000, a lot of the messages take on a distinctly ‘office-y’ tone that may target your staff.”
This includes notifications for fake deliveries and job offers. A growing number of businesses are having their names stolen as a front for the scammer. Approximately 51 percent of reported text message fraud is faux messages appearing to be sent from real businesses but are instead under the control of scammers impersonating them.
Here are five of the most common types of text message scams:
- Copycat bank fraud prevention alerts – Totaled a median individual loss of $3,000 in 2022. This scam prompts receivers to call a number over “suspicious activity” or to reply “Yes” or “No” to verify unauthorized transitions. The scammer then pretends to be part of the bank’s fraud department. The con plays out by the scammer getting personal information to make an unauthorized transaction. Never call a number texted to you. If your bank really wanted to get in touch with you, they would send an email or letter to your house. If you’re still concerned there is an actual issue regarding your account, call your bank directly using their official listed number. They will be able to transfer you to customer service or their legit fraud department if there are any issues.
- Bogus Gifts – Ever receive a text offering a free reward or gift? It’s likely to be a scam. These texts will say it’s from a well-known company and include a link to claim the prize for a “small shipping fee”. Do not click this link and definitely do not fill out any shipping form. The con here is to grab all your personal data, from your billing address to your credit card information. Your information gets stored with the scammer, who will use it to make fraudulent purchases and give you a headache trying to sort out the charges with your bank or credit card company.
- Fake delivery issues – This con utilizes our growing dependence on deliveries. A large number of individuals and businesses receive regular deliveries, so many that some don’t always remember what they’ve ordered or when it is expected to arrive. The scammer will send a text message claiming to be from a legit delivery service, such as FedEx, UPS, or the U.S. Postal Service. They will pretend there is a problem with a scheduled delivery and direct recipients to a link requesting credit card information for a “small redelivery fee” to swipe your information.
- Fake job offers – This is an increasingly frustrating scam directed toward job seekers. Scammers can find your resume and other personal information via job search websites. They’ll pretend to be offering a job that seems too good to be true, targeting the most vulnerable by preying on their desperation to find work. Some are after your information, while others branch out into check scams. Do not cash a check advancement, whether it be a sign-on bonus or money to cover equipment fees, especially if they additionally request you use the money to buy materials or for extra training. Such purchases are made directly to the scammer, who will then turn around and cancel the issued check or it will bounce, resulting in you on the hook for all expenses. Other job scams include mystery shopper offers or fake easy money-making schemes like wrapping your car in ads for some passive income.
- Fake Amazon security alerts – This scam involves verifying a big-ticket order that a consumer did not make through Amazon. The text message will include a link or a phone number to call to verify the purchase and the individual is connected to a fake Amazon customer service representative. The fake rep will pretend to issue a refund for the order but “accidentally” refund too much and prompt you to return the overpayment via gift card PIN numbers or request your bank account information. Either way, call Amazon’s verified customer service line if you ever suspect a problem with your orders or receive a text message alert.