Text fraud caused $330 million in reported losses to U.S. consumers last year, according to a Federal Trade Commission report released Thursday.
That’s more than double the losses from the previous year and marks a fivefold increase from 2019, the FTC says. He added that reports of text scams began to increase in the first six months of the COVID-19 pandemic and have not returned to their previous levels since then.
Cybersecurity researchers say they’ve also seen an increase in this type of fraud. Called smishing, shrinking SMS and phishing, some texts are clearly spam. They advertise obvious bait like energy-boosting supplements, cash prizes from major retailers, or CBD gummies with new flavors. Some are more subtle, disguised as COVID test results, delivery notices or alerts about online payments that didn’t go through. Either way, they are dangerous.
The majority of phishing attacks – attempts to extract personal data from unsuspecting users – still come via email. However, cybercriminals are increasingly taking advantage of distracted users who are rarely without their smartphones to extort people from their logins and passwords, credit card or other financial information, or even access to their corporate networks.
As part of its investigation into the 2022 reports, the FTC also analyzed a random sample of 1,000 fraudulent text messages and found that many tried to impersonate well-known businesses.
Specifically, the most common type of fraudulent texts are those that appear to be fraud alerts from well-known banks. The texts create a sense of urgency, telling the recipient that they need to confirm a large transaction by tapping on a small link included. Those who respond are related to fake bank officials.
The use of fake bank texts has jumped twenty-fold since 2019, the FTC claims.
Other text scams commonly reported to the Federal Trade Commission include messages claiming to offer a free gift, often from a wireless carrier or retailer, messages pretending to be from UPS or FedEx in which it says there’s a package delivery issue along with fake job offers and fake Amazon Security Alerts.
Tips for avoiding SMS scam messages
Be on the lookout for suspicious messages. Do not click on links in suspicious text or otherwise engage the sender. Instead, report the message by forwarding it to 7726 (SPAM). If you think the link may be legitimate, go directly to the company’s website instead of clicking on the included link.
Don’t mess with scammers. Some people like to mess with the people behind the scams by sending them messages and leading them on. This is a very bad idea. If nothing else, it lets the scammer know you’re a real person. But don’t worry if you open a scam text on your phone. Unless you click on a link or download an attachment, you are not in danger of being hacked.
Think before you give your number. Retailers and other companies love to collect them, but do they really need yours? Like your email addresses, if your phone number is in a company database that gets hacked, it will most likely be sold to cybercriminals for use in these types of attacks. Just like the rest of your personal information, the fewer people who have it, the better.
Keep your personal information confidential. Never provide personal or financial information in response to an SMS request.