Phone texting

Roseville, Calif.- Scammers are always adapting their methods to bilk people out of money. A growing method is using text messaging. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has received a large number of reports from people reporting getting texts from scammers impersonating people and organizations they know and trust – such as their bank or Amazon.

Text scams try to get you to act NOW. The most-reported text scam looks like a fraud alert from your bank. It might say there is suspicious activity on your account and tells you to call a number. Or to reply “yes or no” to confirm a big purchase (that you didn’t really make). Stop! There is no real problem. They just want your money or personal information.

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According to the FTC, these are the five most common text message scams:

scam likely screen

Copycat bank fraud prevention alerts. People get a text supposedly from a bank asking them to call a number ASAP about suspicious activity or to reply YES or NO to verify whether a transaction was authorized. If they reply, they will get a call from a phony “fraud department” claiming they want to “help get your money back.” What they really want to do is make unauthorized transfers or get your personal information.

Bogus “gifts” that can cost you. What about those texts claiming to be from a well-known company offering a free gift or reward? If people click the link and use their credit card to cover the small “shipping fee,” they have just handed over their account information to a scammer.

Fake package delivery problems. People may get a text pretending to be from the U.S. Postal Service, FedEx, or UPS claiming there is a problem with a delivery. The text links to a convincing-looking – but utterly bogus – website that asks for a credit card number to cover a small “redelivery fee.”

Phony job offers. Some scammers are using texts to perpetrate old-school forms of fraud – for example, fake “mystery shopper” jobs or bogus money-making offers for driving around with cars wrapped in ads. Other texts target people who post their resumes on employment websites. They claim to offer jobs and even send job seekers checks, usually with instructions to send some of the money to a different address for materials, training, or the like. By the time the check bounces, the person’s money – and the phony “employer” – are long gone.

Not-really-from-Amazon security alerts. People may get what looks like a message from “Amazon,” asking to verify a big-ticket order they did not place. If you call the number in the text, a phony Amazon rep offers to “fix” the account. But oopsie! Several zeroes are mistakenly added to the “refund” and the “operator” needs the caller to return the overpayment, often in the form of gift card.

How to Avoid Text Scams

So how do you avoid these and other text scams? Do not click on links or respond to unexpected texts. If you think a text might be legit, contact the company using a phone number or website you know is real. Do not use the information in the text message.

If you are a victim of a scam, report it to the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov and your local police department.

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