Rip-Off Alert! Look Out for These Text Message Scams

Man using laptop, phone, and tablet

Man using laptop, phone, and tablet | Source: iStock

Don’t think for a minute that the internet is the only place where technology-savvy scammers are taking advantage of innocent victims. These criminals are finding ways to use text messaging to lure you into traps, either to scam money from you or steal personal information.

Recognizing the most common scams will prevent you from becoming a victim yourself. While in some cases it’s much more difficult to separate the legitimate from the faked, we hope this list of the most common text scams will keep you safe and one step ahead of the scammers.

1. Smishing

Smishing is the texting equivalent of “phishing,” the Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson says. Like its web-based counterpart, smishing scams try to deceive you into disclosing personal information and come in several forms. Some claim your online account has been compromised and provide a link in the text to follow to “update” your info. Others claim you owe money, demanding payment immediately or threatening termination of whatever service its impersonating. Yet another may give a phone number that you must call to resolve some type of issue.

There are several ways to deal with a smishing attempt. First of all, verify any information given for contact is indeed the number or website you go to normally. A good place to find legitimate contact information is on the company’s website itself. Never respond to any text messages with personal information of any kind, and question any text message that urges immediate action. If it’s that important the creditor will call you, not text, Swanson says.

2. Gift card scams

Credit cards

Credit cards | Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Another text scam that has been around for a while is the type that claims you’ve won a gift card, Consumer Affairs reports. These scams come from unknown numbers and say something to the effect of “Congratulations! You’ve won a $100 gift card to ABC Store. Click here to claim your gift!” and provide a web address for you to visit.

Consumer Affairs says that if you never entered any kind of contest for a gift card, you’re not just going to win one out of the blue. Clicking on that link and filling out whatever information it asks could put you at risk of identity theft, as the thief now has a good deal of personal information to open up fraudulent accounts.

3. Bank scams


Carl Court/AFP/Getty Images

The Better Business Bureau notes that there’s a considerable uptick in texting scams involving people impersonating as banks lately. These scams use some type of actionable word or words relating to banking, such as claiming your account has been compromised, or saying you’ve overdrawn your account or need to update account information.

These are especially dangerous. If you respond to faked banking texts, you could also give these thieves an easy way to get into your account itself and withdraw money, especially if you enter account and routing numbers. A bank will never ask for this information over text. They know their own account numbers, so any action you need to take can be done through the banks own website or over the phone. Suspicious? Call your bank’s customer service line and confirm.

4. Malware

Man using smartphone

Man using smartphone | Josep Lago/AFP/Getty Images

Denver TV station KDVR reports that another type of scam is making the rounds, and it looks like it’s from your cell phone carrier. The text is unsolicited and claims to have more information on what charges are on your bill with a provided link. Clicking on the link is bad news: a file is downloaded to your phone which when opened infects the device with malware.

Our suggestion? If an unsolicited text contains a link, don’t click on it even if it looks harmless. If you want more information on whatever the text is about, search over the internet first, and make sure you have antivirus software activated just in case.

5. Apple ID expiration


Bryan Thomas/Getty Images

Finally, this one’s for iPhone owners. BGR says a new scam floating around claims to be from Apple, and states that your Apple ID is about to expire. From there, a link is given to renew it, but before you do, you’re asked to enter your current ID and password.

Apple has never asked for Apple IDs through text, so any message that you receive like this is a scam, it says. Ignore the text, and if you have a method to report the text to your carrier do so. But under no circumstances should you disclose any personal information.

Follow Ed on Twitter @edoswald

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