The Rising Threat of Text Scams
Text scams are becoming a serious problem. In 2022, these scams caused a shocking $330 million in losses for people in the US, according to a report by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). This number is more than double the losses from the year before and five times higher than the losses in 2019. The rising threat of text scams has seen a huge increase in just a few years.
The FTC also pointed out that the number of reports about text scams started to go up a lot during the first six months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Even after that initial spike, the number of reports has stayed high and hasn’t gone back down to the levels we saw before the pandemic.
The Tactical Impact of The COVID Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a big impact on a lot of things, and text scams are no exception. When the pandemic started, a lot of people were feeling scared and uncertain. Scammers took advantage of this by sending out more text scams. These scams often played on people’s fears about the virus to trick them into giving away their personal information or money. Even as the pandemic has continued, the number of text scams hasn’t gone down. This suggests that scammers have found text scams to be a successful strategy and are continuing to use them to take advantage of people.
The Future of Text Scams
The fact that text scams are becoming more common is a big concern. As more and more people use their phones for everything from shopping to banking, the potential for text scams to cause harm is only going to increase. It’s important for everyone to be aware of this issue and to know how to protect themselves from these scams.
Breaking Down Text Scams
Text scams, often called “Smishing” — a combo of SMS and Phishing — are becoming a big problem in our digital world. These scams come in all shapes and sizes, with different tricks to fool people. They can be a real danger to anyone who uses a phone.
The Obvious Spam Texts
Some text scams are pretty easy to spot because they look a lot like spam. These messages usually advertise sketchy products or services, like energy-boosting supplements or big cash prizes from famous stores. They might also promise rewards that seem too good to be true, like fancy trips or expensive gift cards. The goal of these scams is to trick the person into clicking a link or giving away personal information by promising them something cool.
The Sneaky, Undercover Texts
Other text scams are sneakier and harder to spot. These messages try to look real, often pretending to be important alerts that need immediate attention. They might pretend to be COVID-19 test results, shipping updates, alerts for online payments that didn’t go through, or even messages from the government. The goal of these scams is to make the person feel worried or rushed, so they act quickly without questioning if the message is real.
No matter what form they take, text scams can be a big danger to people. They’re designed to trick people into giving away sensitive information, like bank account details, credit card numbers, or login info. This information can then be used for all sorts of bad stuff, like stealing someone’s identity, making fraudulent purchases, and other types of cybercrime.
The Shift from Email to Text Scams
While the majority of phishing attacks, which aim to extract personal data from unsuspecting consumers, still occur via email, cybercriminals are increasingly exploiting the ubiquity of smartphones. By targeting consumers who are rarely without their mobile devices, these criminals can trick individuals into revealing their login credentials, credit card details, and other sensitive information.
The Impact on Unsavvy Consumers
For consumers who are not yet savvy to this form of scam, the consequences can be severe. The FTC’s study of 2022 reports found that many scam texts attempted to impersonate well-known businesses, with the most common type of scam text appearing as fraud alerts from reputable banks. These messages create a sense of urgency, prompting the recipient to verify a large transaction by clicking on an embedded link. Those who respond are then connected to fake bank representatives.
The Rise of Fake-Bank Texts
The use of fake-bank texts has skyrocketed twenty fold since 2019, according to the FTC. Other frequently reported text scams include messages offering a free gift from a wireless phone carrier or retailer, messages pretending to be from UPS or FedEx indicating a package delivery issue, along with fraudulent job offers and fake Amazon security alerts.
Protecting Yourself from Text Scams
To protect yourself from text scams, be vigilant about suspicious messages. Avoid clicking on links within dubious texts and do not engage with the sender. Instead, report the message by forwarding it to 7726 (SPAM). If you believe a link might be legitimate, visit the company’s website directly rather than clicking on the included link.
The Importance of Privacy
Think twice before sharing your phone number. Retailers and other companies often request them, but do they truly need this information? If your phone number is stored in a company database that is hacked, it will likely be sold to cybercriminals on the dark web for use in these types of attacks.
As with all your personal information, the fewer people who have access to it, the better.
Never provide personal or financial information in response to an SMS request.
Steps to Take if You’ve Been Scammed by a Text
If you have been targeted by a text scam, it is important to take swift action to reduce the harm and possibly hold the culprits accountable. Here’s a step-by-step guide on what to do:
Contact Your Bank or Credit Card Company
If you’ve shared financial information or made a payment as a result of the scam, contact your bank or credit card company immediately. They can help secure your accounts, monitor for fraudulent activity, and potentially reverse any unauthorized transactions.
Report the Text Scam
Report the scam to your local law enforcement agency and to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the United States. The FTC tracks scam trends, shares information with law enforcement, and may be able to help victims recover lost funds.
Consult a Consumer Protection Attorney
If you’ve suffered significant losses or if the scam involved a company, consider consulting a qualified consumer protection attorney. These legal professionals specialize in cases involving fraudulent business practices and can help you understand your rights and potential remedies. They can also assist in bringing a lawsuit against the company involved, which can not only help you recover your losses but also potentially bring the bad actors to justice.
Remember, falling victim to a scam can be a distressing experience, but you’re not alone. There are resources and legal professionals available to help you navigate the aftermath and work towards a resolution.
Disclosure: This article is for information purposes only and is not intended as legal advice.
Led by attorneys J. Andrew Meyer and Michael D. Finn with over 75 years of combined legal experience. The Finn Law Group is a consumer protection firm specializing in Timeshare Law. If you feel you need to discus a Timeshare, Vacation Ownership or Consumer Protection matter with an attorney, please contact us for a free consultation.
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