Surprisingly, this is not uncommon, most of us receive text messages or even phone calls from people we don’t know with No Caller ID or fake numbers. These are often telemarketers or automated robocalls. That’s why you receive those texts with your name on them. However, sometimes these texts are sent by scammers. Accordingly, you need to deal with them carefully.
Over the past years, text message scams have been on the rise in the US. The August report from RoboKiller estimated that more than 47 billion spam texts have been sent in the first half of 2021. So, that’s about 55 percent higher compared to the year before.
No need to panic! Here is a quick guide to help you detect and even stop these spam texts from reaching your mobile:
How to find out who’s texting you?
Scammers are usually trying to mislead you. They try to impersonate your bank or any other well-known organization. For that reason, you need to verify the random number texting you.
Just like anything else you search for online, you can try to Google the number. In fact, most established organizations or shops have their numbers published on their official website. They should appear in your top Google search results.
If you want to save time and effort, make sure you use a trusted reverse phone number lookup service like Intelius or TruthFinder. All you have to do is to type the number in a search box. Next, validate and see who’s behind it with name, location, and other details if available.
Another effective way to identify who is texting you is by using online reverse phone directories. Today, you’ll find several free phone number lookup services available online.
These will help you track down the owners of unknown phone numbers. All you need to do is enter the number that has texted you. The service should then provide you with more information, such as the name registered with this number. Additionally, you can sometimes get information about their address, e-mail, or other personal information.
Why are random numbers contacting you?
Not all random numbers are scammers. Sometimes, it could be someone you know. They could be texting you from another number because their phones have died.
There is also the possibility that it’s someone you know, but don’t have their number saved to your contact list for some reason. That’s why first, you need to differentiate between spam text messages and real ones. Online phone lookup services can help you with that.
If it’s not someone you know, get your guards up. This number has contacted you for a reason. They could be trying to sell you something. In this case, it’s a harmless ad, and annoying, of course, but harmless. However, in many cases, it could be someone trying to scam you. They might try to steal your personal information, money or cause other problems.
Dangers of interacting with a random text message
Receiving a text message from an unknown number might seem harmless. Unfortunately, a random text message can lead to all sorts of troubles. Consequently, it’s not advisable at all to interact with any random text message, even if it seems innocent.
Just replying to such text messages or clicking on a link could open the door to never-ending issues. You could end up losing money or even inviting hackers to your mobile phone. In fact, scammers never run out of ideas and tricks. One thing they all have in common; they will ask you at some point to disclose your personal information. So, to distract you, the scammers often create a sense of urgency or offer an irresistible gift.
Here are some of the traps to watch out for:
If you receive a text from a number you don’t recognize, it’s best to ignore it. Next, never click on any links included in this message. Scammers sometimes disguise suspicious links as a way to ‘unsubscribe’ or ‘stop’ receiving these messages. So, don’t fall for that old trick. Clicking on the link might get you unwanted charges or help scammers install viruses on your phone.
Too Good To Be True
The old quote says: “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is not!” That’s exactly the case with scam text messages. They will promise you prizes, gifts, money, and much more. In return, they will ask you to provide them with some personal information to be able to claim the offer.
That’s not how things work in real life. Nothing comes free this way, especially if you have not participated in any competitions. Even if you win such an expensive prize, you’ll not get notified via a random text message.
Fake service provider issues
Nowadays, most scammers use this trick. So, you may receive a message that looks like it was sent from your bank or a well-known service provider. The text informs you of a serious problem with your bank account or service. However, that’s not the case.
You’ll be asked to provide personal information or click on the link to learn more about the problem. So, never do it, even if the message seems real. Your bank or other service providers will never try to reach you this way. They will send you a formal letter or an e-mail from their official address.
Phony charitable causes
Sometimes, scammers play on your good heart. They will try to get advantage of your empathy. If you believe in a certain cause, try to do some research first. Find trustworthy places to send your donations to. This way, you’ll make sure you’re actually helping those in need. Legitimate charities never send links or messages asking for your personal information.
How to protect yourself from these scam texts?
Fortunately, there are many things you can do to keep your mobile phone and personal data secure. Before you get too excited about the free gift or too worried about the banking issue, stop and think. Try to detect the red flags.
Remember that scammers are getting more sophisticated over time. They learn how to work around any obstacles to reach you. Nowadays, scam texts look pretty much authentic. Those guys may send you text messages with your name. You might even find your bank name in the sender ID. This is known as number spoofing. They use this trick to make their text message look more trustworthy.
Here are some ways to fight back:
Scammers feed on your curiosity. So, they know you would be tempted to click on the link or reply to their message. For that, you should just ignore the text message. Even if someone texted you and they know your name, just ignore that, as most spammers can search for your details through Google or on social media networks.
Try not to open it in the first place. Any interaction will confirm to the scammer that your number is valid. This way, your mobile will probably get flooded by scam messages.
Don’t Open the Link
Always keep in mind that scammers are tricky. So, they will make the scam message appear as legitimate as possible. If you don’t look carefully, you’ll click on the link and give strangers access to your details like location etc…. It will seem authentic and can even direct you to a website that looks real. Remember, all this is fake, and even if you open the link, don’t enter any personal information about yourself.
Some sites try to send fake messages with random phone numbers parenting to be PayPal, or other organizations. These guys know for sure that their target will click on their links, and they’ll redirect them to specific pages and get what they want.
Never disclose personal information
Any well-established organization or service provider will never ask you to submit personal information via text. In fact, sharing any of your personal data can cause you all sorts of damages in the future. In consequence, you should be extremely careful about who you share this sensitive information with.
No matter if you receive a text from your bank or a social network like Facebook or Instagram, always verify if the sender is real or fake. Just use Google search and type that same number and see who’s the person behind it. Hence, even with that trick, scammers can use other techniques to hide their identity.
Contact your service provider directly
If you’re still in doubt, try to contact your bank or service provider directly. So, open their official website by typing the name of the company into Google search or any other search engine. There, you can find all their contact information. Now, reach out to them and ask about the suspicious message you received to your phone.
Make sure you take a screenshot of the exact message you received, and show them the phone number behind it with the date and time. These details can help the team investigate and tell you more about the person behind it. That way, investigations could show you that it could be someone from another country who tries to steal your identity or for other reasons.
Block the number
Today, all mobile phones, whether iOS or Android, come with a blocking option. You can block any phone number you want. This way, the number will not be able to send you any text messages or call you in the future.
To block a random number on your iPhone, follow these steps:
- Click on the calls list
- Tap the “i” icon next to that number
- Now, scroll down the screen
- Tap “Block this Caller”, which will appear in red color
Use a phone spam-blocking App
One of the most effective ways to avoid all this hassle is by downloading a block spam messages application. In reality, there are a few apps online that can automatically filter out text messages. They will block spam texts using Smart Blocking technology. Also you can also add more phone numbers or keywords to their blocking filters.
Google phones or Android come with a feature to turn On spam protection through call ID. Also, you may search for “spam blocking” apps on your app store. Thus, you get a list of tools to use.
File a complaint
This will stop scam text messages from their source. Whenever you suspect a text message is a scam, you should file a complaint. You can report the text message to your state Attorney General. You can also submit a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). This will not stop the scam messages immediately. However, it will help protect you and also save others from becoming victims of scam messages.
What if the damage has already been done? What if you have already clicked on the link in the scam message or have submitted your personal information? First, you need to involve the law enforcement. Also, contact your bank immediately and inform them about the incident. Additionally, you need to change all your usernames and passwords across all your social media and bank accounts.
In the digital world, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Leave that door closed, and stop opening or clicking on any suspicious messages in the first place. Remember that technology is a two-edged sword. So, use it to your advantage and try to track the random number and find out who is texting you.
Curiosity killed the cat. So, don’t let it make you a victim of scam text messages!