Scam Texts Are Robbing Us of Millions of Dollars. Here’s Why.
Start looking at all text messages you get with a wary eye!
If this subject is new to you, good. It means you haven’t been tricked yet by a scammer through a text message you’ve received on your phone. But here’s a guarantee. Scam texts are heading your way.
We live on our phones and now we’re starting to pay the price. Scam texts now top the list for how con artists find their victims. Scammers have made fraudulent text messages their number one trick of choice. Scam texts have replaced scam emails as the preferred method of trickery…and it’s working well for them.
It’s not your fault. Technology has made our lives easy to manage…right from our phones.
But that technology has inadvertently allowed criminals—that’s what scammers are—to use the latest apps, and our smartphones, as a way to trick us into giving them money.
Our phones have become a link to our entire lives.
It’s not that we think you and everyone else reading this can be easily fooled and would fall for a scam if one came your way, whether through an email, a phone call, or from a con artist at an airport.
Not at all. However, scammers are experts at what they do and have all kinds of ways to trick anybody at any time. If their effective message finds the right vulnerable person at the right time and in the right way, it has a remarkable chance of working.
And maybe not on you, but on people you know and care for and might be the ones caught off guard one time, one day. And that one time is all it takes. But, the facts are in, and the warning flags are everywhere.
There’s a special name for scam texts.
There’s even a special new term for the scamming that takes place via texts: “smishing.”
It comes from a combination of the acronym for text—“SMS” (for Short Message Service)—and “phishing,” which means fishing for victims by email (the “ph” is leftover over from an earlier scam…”phreaking.”)
Phishing hasn’t gone away. In fact, businesses especially suffer tremendously attacks by scammers on their employees through deceptive emails. The emails trick employees into giving away company information, from names and titles of employees to passwords and links to company networks and departments.
Phishing is such a huge issue that companies—and websites like whatismyipaddress.com—have addressed the topic often enough that employee awareness and education have increased dramatically over the past few years.
As employers and employees caught on, so did scammers. So, they moved on to a new strategy of targeting people on their smartphones via text messages.
Covid-19 and its impact on spam texts.
In a sense, you might thing that because Covid-19 caused so many businesses to slow down and even shut down, and so many people were working from home—or not working at all—that scammers would have seen a slowdown in business.
Not the case. In fact, you could say the opposite happened, and spam texts were a big part of that. The pandemic gave many people more time on their hands, and a lot of that time was spent by people on their phones, a lot of it on social media and exploring new apps.
- In the third quarter of 2020, the first year of the pandemic, smishing attempts went up by a whopping 328%. In 2021, spam texts grew by another 58%.
- From April 2021 to March of 2022, spam texts jumped more than 1,000%. March also marked a sad milestone, when spam texts outnumbered the number of robocalls.
So, criminals have switched to scam text messages instead. Those numbers have exploded over just the past few years. The numbers, according to statistics from the website text-em-all.com are shocking.
Spam texts by the numbers.
Here’s an estimate on the sheer volume of spam texts messages that are sent in the United States.
|Per Week:||1.6 Billion|
|Per Month:||41 Spam Texts Per Person|
Here are the U.S. cities that received the most reported spam texts: Texas, California, New York, Florida, Ohio. Nearly 60 millions Americans in March of 2022 reported having fallen for a phone scam during the previous 12 months.
Scammers are stealing millions through spam texts.
When we attach dollar amounts to what’s being lost to con artists through smishing, the problem seems even more alarming. Here are just a few stats:
- In 2020 when the pandemic hit, Americans lost $86 million to text scams
- The following year, Americans lost more than $10 billion to smishing
- Covid-19 scams and stimulus payment scams sent via texts swindled Americans out of $16 million from the 1st quarter of 2020 to the 2nd quarter of 2021
We’ve looked at numbers and see how smishing grew from 2020 to 2022.
The question is, why did spam text attempts work so well?
Why are scam texts are working?
It’s a simple fact of life: scam texts and the number of people conned—are on the rise.
It was bound to happen. Many people have shifted so much of their daily activities online—and we’ve all hooked our accounts and lives to apps, and all of the apps are available on our smartphones.
But another factor is the evolution of scams. Criminals move from one scheme to another, but only when one method stops working as well as it did. This might be because people are getting wiser to their tricks, or that regulations and anti-fraud laws and processes have slowed down their efforts.
For instance, in late 2019 a bill was passed in the U.S. that required companies to better deter criminal activities, such as reducing the number of “robocalls’—automated “robot” calls scammers could make by the millions.
When we’re busy, it makes it easy to get sucked into a trap.
Or smartphones have become our connection to the world. More than that, we’ve made them (with the help of businesses, software and hardware developers) the connections to our daily lives. Virtually every we can do in life we can do on our phones.
Except for cooking. But you can get anything you want to eat ordered and delivered to your day in less than an hour. Ordered and paid for on your phone.
Scammers are well aware that most people, especially younger folks, are on their smartphones constantly. We can work, play and get through the day from our phones, thanks to the hundreds of apps that exist and are developed throughout the year.
Why? Because the average person receives messages, alerts and notifications constantly throughout the day. We start to expect texts, updates and messages from everyone we’re connected to online And as we have learned to interact with businesses primarily with our phones and given our phone numbers to everyone, we don’t think of any one text being troublesome or dangerous.
More than that, the more we connect our phones to our accounts, our homes, our favorite stores and social media platforms, the greater the chance of being fooled.
Scammers go where people go.
Scam texts work so well because they’re relatively new to the scene, and on top of that, they’re getting harder to spot these days.
Because while most people (but not all) are savvy enough to recognize when a deal seems too good to be true, scammers have gotten more clever. Con artists who just spam texts have moved beyond the cheap scams, such as Nigerian Princes with cash to give away.
Instead, they craft schemes that seem logical for most people and that—at a glance—seem to have some possibility of being legitimate. And that might be part of the reason the scam texts are working. We’ve accidentally set ourselves up to be more susceptible to these kinds of scams.
Here’s how a lot of people are being tricked into the leading text scams:
Here are 5 of the more common text scams:
The following scam themes or categories accounted for about 40% of the text scams reported In 2021. Here’s a look at each and why it can catch consumers off guard.
- Delivery texts: This text gets you to confirm or check on a package that’s headed your way. You’re so busy and you probably ordered something you forgot about, so you read the text…and take the next step.
- Covid-19 texts: With Covid still in the news and in our lives, a message from some seemingly trustworthy source can get our attention. Maybe you’ll take that next step to provide information.
- Bank texts: If you’ve signed up for two-factor authentication on your bank accounts (which is a good idea), you may have selected to verify your identity by a text response. So, a text from your bank seems important, especially if it’s an alert about your account.
- iPhone, iPad other Hardware raffles/sweepstakes: How exciting it feels to think you might have won an expensive gadget you’d love to have. This text lures you into filling out a survey and other forms to claim you gift.
- Healthcare text scams: A new diet-pill is now available and you’re one of the first to know. Or a new “gummy” can help you quit smoking in weeks, guaranteed. If your habit or desire matches the offer, you might take the next step.
The warning signs of a scam text.
As mentioned before, scammers have gotten more clever, so you have to be on alert to the possibility that the message you get, at a glance, isn’t really what it seems to be.
Smishing texts will likely have these characteristics:
- They urge you to act now. A sense of urgency is sign of a potential scam and a red flag.
- They tell you to click on a link. Clicking on links in any test message is not safe these days. Be extra sure before you click on a link.
- They ask you to fill out a form or send information. Don’t update your accounts or fill out forms in response to a text message. It’s not safe.
Fraudsters are attacking your phone with scam texts. Fight back.
It’s time for new personal guidelines regarding texts. In a sense, you could say we are at a digital war with scammers—who are the enemy. It’s time to draw up some new personal phone policies to prepare for battle.
Sound advice from the authorities:
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission has drawn up a list of “don’ts” for consumers. It’s good advice that everyone should follow:
- Do not respond to texts from unknown numbers, or any others that appear suspicious.
- Never share sensitive personal or financial information by text.
- Be on the lookout for misspellings, or texts that originate with an email address
- Think twice before clicking any links in a text message. If a friend sends you a text with a suspicious link that seems out of character, call them to make sure they weren’t hacked.
- If a business sends you a text that you weren’t expecting, look up their number online and call them back.
- Remember that government agencies almost never initiate contact by phone or text.
- Report texting scam attempts to your wireless service provider by forwarding unwanted texts to 7726 (or “SPAM”).
Follow the Easy Prey Podcast
For more advice on avoiding scams, fraud and staying safer online and in the real world, follow the Easy Prey podcast, hosted by Chris Parker, CEO and founder of WhatIsMyIPAddress.com.
Statistic Sources: FTC, NPR, Robokiller.co
- Easy Prey Podcast
- General Topics
- Home Computing
- IP Addresses
- Online Privacy
- Online Safety
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