Scammers are turning more and more to fraudulent text messaging rather than spam phone calls when stealing from Americans.
The number of spam texts in August 2021 is estimated to have been 20 percent higher than spam telephone calls during the month.Read More »
The predicted monetary losses to Americans in 2021 as a result of fraudulent text messages is put at $101 million, an 18 percent increase on the losses that were suffered in 2020.
Overcoming new technology
Part of the reason for the upsurge in text scams during August 2021 was that spammers are finding workarounds for a new technology framework rolled out in June to reduce spam telephone calls, RoboKiller’s report says.
The new framework, called STIR/SHAKEN, is designed to cut back on illegal spoofing of telephone numbers and robocalls that are fraudulent. Robocallers use caller ID spoofing in order to hide their identity.
As a result, a growing number of scammers are turning to texting, which many are finding to be an effective method of reaching Americans with their fraudulent messages.
Many of the scammers are taking advantage of people feeling vulnerable as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to spam blocking companies.
During August 2021 scammers regularly sent spam texts relating to the virus, the RoboKiller report says. The texts related to unemployment as a result of the pandemic as well as the swift surge of the Delta variant of the virus.
Use of the virus for scam messages and robocalls has been around since the pandemic began. Six in every 10 Americans received scam texts or scam phone calls relating to the virus over the year to March 2021, according to a Harris Poll conducted for Truecaller, which provides services that include spam protection.
Made to look real
Many of the text messages from scammers are made to look as though they are from major companies. They might, for example, contain a phony invoice from the company. You become concerned because you cannot recall making any such purchase and you want to check it out using links in the message. Should you click on the message and answer questions on it, information on you, such as log-in details, is obtained, leading to potential fraudulent activity.
Other messages might be disguised to look as though they are from a bank or service provider, warns Patrick Webre, chief of the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau at the Federal Communications Commission. The aim is to obtain more financial or personal information from you so that they may steal from you.
In other cases, the scammer might direct you to telephone a number to obtain more information or resolve a problem, Webre adds. The telephone number is that of the scammer.
A popular scam that is harder for people to recognize involves tracking a package, says Alvaro Puig, Consumer Education Specialist at the Federal Trade Commission.
A text message from a scammer contains a fake tracking code as well as a link that offers to update your preferences for delivery, Puig explains. When you click on the link you are taken to an unrelated website where an attempt is made to obtain your personal or financial information.
The top text scams across the United States during August 2021, according to RoboKiller, were:
• Amazon, UPS and other delivery scams—1.8 billion (24.13 percent of total text spams);
• COVID-19— 404 million (5.29 percent of the total)
• Bank scams—214 million (2.8 percent of the total)
States most affected
The states that received the most spam texts, according to RoboKiller, are:
• Texas — 910.4 million (38 per person)
• New York — 652 million (40 per person)
• California — 912 million (28 per person)
• Florida — 417.9 million (24 per person)
• Ohio — 363.3 million (37 per person)
How to react to spam texts
Here are ways to help you check whether text messages are spam and how to react to them.
• Avoid responding to texts from numbers you do not know or that seem to be suspicious.
• Think carefully before clicking on any links in a text message.
Resist the temptation to follow links in a message that looks at all suspicious. If you think that the message could be genuine, get in touch with the company by using a phone number or website that you know is authentic. Do not use any information given in the text message to contact the company.
• Should a business send you a text that you were not expecting, do not click on any links.
Again, contact the company to check on the information.
• Never share financial or personal information in a text.
Avoid providing any details of your credit card or bank account, login particulars, or any other sensitive information.
• Remember government agencies never will contact you by text or telephone.
• Report texting scams to your service provider by forwarding the text to 7726 (for SPAM), suggests Webre of the Federal Communications Commission.
• File a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission.