Rise of the Robotexts
When it comes to texting scams, the key is knowing how to respond - and when not to
Scammers are always trying to find a way into your life. Just when anti-spam technology started to limit the number of robocalls we get (cut down by almost half over the past year), fraudsters started sneaking into our phones through another window — our text messages.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently reported that consumer complaints about unwanted texts have nearly tripled since 2019 and some independent reports estimate the number of monthly robotexts in the billions. Some of these are just spam, but many of them are scams — known as “smishing” — and they arrive in various forms, usually trying to alarm you about undelivered packages, unpaid (or paid!) debts or bills, problems with your bank account or credit cards, and even warnings about legal actions against you. Most smishing is designed to harvest personal information, while some might be more directly after your money.
To protect yourself, be on the lookout for texts that come from strange numbers, especially those with 10 digits or longer. Be wary of misspellings that might make it past blockers or filters, and messages with incomplete information. And steer clear of any text with web links you didn’t ask for or aren’t expecting.
If you believe you’ve received a suspicious text, here are some FCC-recommended steps you can take:
- Independently verify any number and its connection with the company in question and call them back only using an official phone number
- Do not respond — even if the message offers you the ability to opt-out by texting “STOP”
- Do not click on any links embedded in the text
- Do not provide any information via text
- Review your phone’s built-in text-blocking settings
- Update any phone, tablet, or smartwatch with the latest operating system and security applications
- Install anti-malware software
- File a complaint with the FCC and forward any unwanted texts to SPAM (7726)
- Delete all suspicious texts
Scammers are always going to look for a way to sneak into your life, whether it’s through the mail, via computer, or on your phones and tablets. All you can do is stay informed, remain vigilant, and know how and when to respond — or when not to.