Milwaukee, Wis. – Here’s how to tell a real text message from a scam – even if the con artist is posing as a business you know and trust.
Scammers love phishing schemes, but they aren’t just limited to emails. As more real businesses use text messages to communicate with their customers, con artists are sending out their own texts, posing as organizations you know and can trust. If you receive an unusual text message, the following tips can help you decide whether it is a fake, before scammers can get their hands on your personal information.
How to spot fake texts
- Don’t trust unsolicited messages. Scammers will try to get you to click a link or call a number in a text message claiming you’ve won a great prize, your subscription account is about to be deactivated, or there was a problem delivering a package to your home. They may even claim fraudulent activity has been detected on your account and tell you to “Act now!”. Before you get too worked up and respond, ask yourself, “Did I give this company permission to text me? Did I enter a contest recently? Am I expecting a package? Is it normal for this business to send me messages?” If an out of the blue offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If you receive an unsettling text message from a company you do business with, but they never text you in the past, look up their contact information on their official website and get in touch to find out what the message is really about.
- Watch out for suspicious links. Most scam text messages contain a link for you to click on. Scammers hope their message will cause you to feel so scared or excited you’ll click the link without thinking. Some of these links could download malware onto your device. Others may lead you to lookalike websites where scammers hope to harvest your personal information, login ID, and passwords.
- Know that a personalized message doesn’t make the sender trustworthy. Thanks to data breaches and online directories at least some of your personal information is probably online. Scammers may have access to your name, address, where you bank, your phone provider and other details about your life. They may include some of this information in their text to appear more legitimate. When in doubt, contact the businesses directly to find out if they really tried to contact you.
- Look for spelling and grammar errors. A large number of fake texts originate with offshore companies where they may be crafted by someone who isn’t completely fluent in the English language. Some scammers are highly skilled in English and it may even be their first language, so not every fake text you receive will follow this rule. Still, legitimate companies usually hire professional writers and editors to craft their business communications, so if you notice strange phrasing along with spelling and grammar errors, you’re probably dealing with a scammer.
- If a website looks real, check again. If you do click on a link in a suspicious text message and it appears to take you to an official business website, don’t feel safe straightaway. Scammers can create a carbon copy of a legitimate website and if you log in on the fake site they can steal your username and password. Check the URL carefully to make sure you are on the official website before you navigate within it.
- Look up phone numbers before you call. Scammers may prompt you to call a number, claiming you need to resolve some kind of issue or register to receive a prize. They may do so under the guise of a real business, so always double-check any numbers they send you before you call. If the scammer gets you on the line, they’ll likely ask you to “confirm your identity” by telling them your PIN, password, social security number, or other personal details. No legitimate company will ever ask you to reveal your security information over the phone. If you realize you’re talking to a scammer, hang up and block the number.
- If you spot a scam text, don’t reply. Some scammers ask you to text “STOP” or “NO” so you won’t receive future texts. In reality, your reply tells them they have a real, active phone number and could open you up to future attacks. If a text message seems suspicious, don’t reply. Block the number and erase the message.
- Keep your antivirus software up to date. Antivirus software can alert you to fake and unsafe websites if you happen to click on a link in an unsolicited text message. Keep the software installed and up to date to protect yourself against scammers.
For more information
Examples of fake text scams:
- That’s not your boss texting
- Innocent wrong number text? It could be a scam bot!
- Receive a text with a surprise offer? Don’t click that link!
- Ignore Phony Banking Texts and Phone Calls
Learn more ways to stay alert to scams by visiting BBB.org/ScamTips.
If you’ve spotted a text message scam, whether or not you fell victim, report it to BBB.org/ScamTracker to help others stay alert to the danger.For more information or further inquiries, contact the Wisconsin BBB at www.bbb.org/wisconsin, 414-847-6000 or 1-800-273-1002. Consumers also can find more information about how to protect themselves from scams by following the Wisconsin BBB on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
ABOUT BBB: For more than 100 years, the Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2020, people turned to BBB more than 220 million times for BBB Business Profiles on 6.2 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at BBB.org. There are local, independent BBBs across the United States, Canada and Mexico, including BBB Serving Wisconsin which was founded in 1939 and serves the state of Wisconsin.