text scam on phone sms

How to Avoid SMS Text Scams

Texting or SMS used to be a pretty popular method of communication, but it was deeply flawed. Texts are an insecure way of sending information. These days, most people use online messengers instead, but that doesn’t completely remove the risks. Scammers still use texts, and 2020 saw a huge rise in text scams. Below is a guide on recognizing, avoiding, and staying safe from text scams.

How to Spot a Text Scam

Sometimes, text scams get you to give up information or click a link. To do that, scammers will try to entice you by offering you something in return. Scammers may offer money, prizes, Amazon parcels, or even the Corona vaccine.

Another thing scammers do is take advantage of your fear. Some text scams refer to taxes, potential legal problems, or even an injured, sick, or arrested family member needing help.

Sometimes, scam messages will seem harmless, pretending to deliver notifications from Apple or another company you know. Effectively, any message with a link is probably a scam and should be ignored. That doesn’t mean any messages without a link are automatically fine. Some scammers rely on you responding with your information via another text.

Don’t Trust a Name or Number

Text Scams - Spoof
SMS Spoofing can cause a text scam to appear legitimate. | Source: Medium

If you have suspicions about a message, you shouldn’t interact with or reply to it, even if it’s from a trusted sender. Scammers have sophisticated methods of tricking you into believing their messages are legitimate because they know using a trusted company name makes you more likely to fall for their tricks.

Spoofing is replacing the number that has sent the text with something else. Sometimes, legitimate companies can use spoofing so their company name appears rather than a phone number. Spoofing is a favorite trick of scammers.

Scammers will pretend to be an official number from a trusted company by spoofing the company name or phone number. This means scam texts can appear to be from someone you trust; sometimes even appears as part of an already-established text chain.

Never Click Links or Give Information

Once you’ve identified a spam text, the best action is to delete it. Do not click on links or respond with your personal information.

Links often lead to your phone being infected with malware or other viruses. These infections can then lead to hackers stealing your phone’s data, including any information you may enter on your phone.

Responding with information is more obvious, but there’s no guarantee it’s safe to respond with anything at all. If the number used by the scam text is one you trust and you’re worried about the message’s content, ring the company or department involved directly through a trusted number. You should not use a number sent to you by text. Always check which number to use for yourself online.

Block Untrusted Numbers

Text Scams - Blocklist
Utilizing your blocklist is a great way to prevent text scams from getting through. | source: Hacked/W.S.Worrall

If the scam messages you’re getting do not use spoofing, you should block the numbers that are sending the messages. Like deleting old messages, blocking can help to prevent you from accidentally clicking on any links.

Most phones have a built-in blocklist you can use to prevent certain numbers from contacting you. Go to your phone settings or call menu for a heading like ‘Blocked Numbers’ or ‘Blocklist’ and add the number you wish to block.

Whenever they try to text you in the future, you should receive a notification but no message. This essential step will help to keep you safe from scams.

Practice Identifying Text Scams

One of the most important and useful things you can do is gain insight into how text scams work. Once you’re more familiar with these scams’ basics, noticing them should become second nature.

Look up examples of scam texts and memorize the speech patterns used in the messages. Scammers use the same techniques and phrases as each other, and learning these patterns is essential to protecting yourself.

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Featured image by Ascannio from Shutterstock.com