How To Spot A Text Message Scam

Mobile phones have become a constant companion for many people around the world. Even with the presence of social media networks and messaging platforms that allow online communication—such as Facebook, Instagram, or WhatsApp—many still choose to use SMS, whether for work or personal purposes.

With this, you must be wary of scam artists targeting you through your phone. These may come in the form of phone calls, emails, and text messages. While you believe that you can immediately recognize a fraud when you see one, it may not be the same for everyone. A study shows that more than 97% of consumers were unable to identify phishing scams presented to them accurately.

Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash

SMS scam tactics are commonplace. You or someone close to you may fall victim to it tomorrow or some other time. Fortunately, there are ways to recognize fraudulent text messages quickly and protect yourself from giving away any crucial personal information. Let’s get started.

Take a closer look at the number

When you receive an unidentified text message, look at the sender. If it claims to be your credit card company or insurance agent, check their business mobile number or contact them through a different communication channel for verification.

Meanwhile, if the number is unusually long compared to other legitimate marketing shortcodes, it is highly likely that it’s a scam. If you are suspicious, ignore, delete, or block the number from your device to avoid further unwarranted SMS messages from them.

Suspicious random family emergency texts

This SMS scam tactic is one of the oldest and most common tricks in the book. Fraudsters will send you a text message saying an immediate family member who lives in (location) or is traveling to (location) has gotten into trouble or an accident. They will then ask for financial help through money transfer, for it’s the only way to help them.

This type of SMS scam can be petrifying, but that’s why it works—it is a scare tactic. When you receive a message like this, don’t panic and think rationally. Contact the aforementioned family member or reach out to a trusted friend to verify the sender’s story.

Fishy raffle or contest prizes

Another common SMS trick also happens to use a simple tactic, which is informing the target that they’ve won a prize or a giveaway. Often, the message includes instructions on how to claim the reward, usually through a hyperlink. However, it’s just a trick to acquire your personal details.

Obviously, if you did not enter to win any contest or giveaway promo, ignore the message. If you’re not entirely sure, reach out to the brand or company through their official social media pages to confirm.

Be cautious of text messages containing links

As a rule of thumb, do not tap on links in suspicious text messages. Many SMS scams contain links that you have no way of knowing whether it’s safe. Apart from it being a ploy to get your personal information, it can also spread malware on your device. To be safe, never trust a random link from text messages.

Pay attention to the grammar

Many SMS phishing attempts come from countries where English is not the first language. Because of this, a lot of scammers commit blatant spelling or grammar mistakes that are relatively easy to spot, especially for native English speakers.

These mistakes can be as simple as missing punctuation or improper capitalization, misplaced words, or generally, any sentence that just seems off. Consider these mishaps as warning signs. When you feel like the message feels not right, be wary, and it is best to ignore it.

Keep watch of reactivation scams

Reactivation scams often look innocent and legitimate on the surface. This type of SMS scam usually indicates that “your [account, password, email, or the likes,] has been compromised or used with another device. Your account has been deactivated for your protection.” It sounds frightening and all until they ask that you text a specific code or word to the number to reactivate your account.

In case you receive this kind of message, simply check the accounts mentioned. When you see that they have not been deactivated, contrary to the message you received, then you know what to do next—ignore the text message and block (and report) them.

Look out for anything out of character

Whether it’s a family emergency scam or a parcel delivery phishing message, keep watch of anything that’s slightly suspicious or inappropriate under the circumstances. For instance, you may receive a message posing as a relative, but they don’t greet you or text in the same way as the fraudster. Additionally, a Korean company would not exactly greet an American customer with a “Hello mate.”

Protect yourself from SMS scams

Text message scams are arguably one of the world’s biggest scams. It has been around long before digital communication entered the scene and continues to prey on targets today. To remain safe against these fraudulent acts, be skeptical of any unidentified SMS messages you receive. Hopefully, the tips above can help you avoid falling prey to such scams.