Day and night, fraudulent text messages bombard our cell phones. Cybercriminals to blame for these illicit texts claim to be from government agencies, such as the Internal Revenue Service, mega-merchants like Amazon and Costco, and even big banks.
Don’t let these crooks steal your money or data, or worse, infect your smartphone with malware. Let’s start with the main ways to stay safe:
1. Do not reply to suspicious text messages. Don’t even respond by sending a “STOP” or “NO” message.
2. Do not click on hyperlinks or attachments in suspicious messages.
3. Take action to filter unwanted messages or block them before they get to you.
Losses reached $ 86 million last year
In the United States, $ 86 million was lost in 2020 to fraudulent text fraud, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), a consumer protection agency. Last year, the 334,524 such complaints amounted to an average of 916 reports per day.
In 5% of the cases, the complainants declared that they had lost money; their median loss was $ 800.
Meanwhile, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which regulates mobile phone providers, heard about 14,000 complaints about fraudulent text messages last year. The roughly 6,900 reports so far in 2021 (through the end of May) suggest that the 2020 total will be exceeded this year.
Cyber ââcrooks are not stupid
Smart consumers remove suspicious texts faster than you can say âpoppycockâ. Yet cyber crooks go to great lengths to deceive us. They pose as well-known entities, like Federal Express, another company whose name has been misused. Sometimes criminals even personalize texts, addressing you by name to evoke an air of authenticity.
Scammers also play mind games: they pitch tempting texts about supposed opportunities to make a lot of money. They are lying when they say that a consumer must be reimbursed. Or they pretend to be a package driver who is eager to hand over your package and asks you to click on a link to confirm when you are home.
The fear factor
Criminals also capitalize on the fear factor, claiming in texts that you could lose money, have been charged with a crime, or be mortified when embarrassing details about your life are exposed. The COVID-19 pandemic – and trillions of federal dollars released to deal with the crisis – has sparked a spate of scam texts on coronavirus treatments, investigations and specials, according to the FCC. Several of them were based on pandemic relief dollars, with one falsely offering $ 30,000 in funds from the “FCC Financial Care Center”, which doesn’t even exist.