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With the increased usage of mobile devices, a lot of people want to know how to identify fake text messages. After all, we all strive to be safe. But, that has become a bit difficult in the digital era as a lot of scam types have popped up. Identifying and acting against a text message scam is the topic of this article. We'll be taking a closer look at what fake text messages mean, how to spot spam text messages and how to deal with them effectively.
What are Fake Text Messages
Of course, for you to identify fake text messages and act against them, you must first know what these messages represent.
A fake text message is a message sent to you by a scammer whose goal is to take action of some sort. In most cases, spammers send these messages to gain access to your personal or financial information. These text message scams have become quite effective recently as scammers have mastered the infamous craft.
The main reason why these scams are so dangerous is that they are done remotely. A scammer can even send spam messages from a different country, and even if they get caught, your country will not be able to act against it as it does not have jurisdiction.
Different Purposes of Sending Fake Text Messages
Logically, people don't send scam text messages just because they want to play with your time or nerves. Each spam text message has its purpose. Below, we've listed and explained some of the different reasons why someone would send spam text messages.
Gaining Access to Your Bank Account Details
The most common purpose of sending spam text messages is to gain access to bank details. To do this, the scammer will likely ask for a payment of some sort. Since text messages are so sophisticated, some people have trouble figuring out whether they are real or fake.
One of the best ways through which scammers can present themselves as someone else is using SMS spoofing. A spoof text message is a message that arrives on your phone by someone who's representing themselves as a legitimate company or an individual.
Since the name sounds familiar, people might get caught up in the mix and end up providing the scammer with personal details. Once the information is given up, it will be hard to retrieve.
Lure You Into Buying Non-Existent Products
If someone sends fake messages, they will most likely want to convince you to buy non-existent products. Here's the difference between luring you to buy these "products" and sending spam messages to get bank account details.
When scammers are looking to get your personal or account information, their goal is to drain your cards and empty out 100% of your money. On the other hand, luring people to buy certain products will only cause them to spend a small amount of money.
When scammers aim to convince you to buy non-existent products, they will most likely ask for a small sum. This sum is barely enough for you not to call authorities to investigate the scam.
To profit, scammers send this type of unsolicited text message to numerous victims. Small amounts of money from multiple targets are collected, and thus, a profit is made.
Finally, we have arguably the most common purpose of sending unwanted text messages - smishing text. This is a form of unwanted text message, similar to phishing. The main difference between phishing and smishing fake texts is the fact that phishing is an online scam text and smishing is a text message scam.
Scammers' goal of smishing text messages is to gain access to your passwords. This does not include bank accounts only, but also social media passwords and credit card numbers. In most cases, they will send you a link you need to follow, and the link will automatically download malware.
The malware will copy all the information on your phone, and before you know it, the suspicious text message will result in a total breach of privacy.
How to Identify a Fake Text Message
There's no denying that a spam text message can cause problems on a massive scale. After all, the US Federal Trade Commission reported over 2.8 million fraud reports from consumers in 2021 alone; compared to 2020, the number represented a 70% increase.
These numbers suggest that you are likely to receive an unexpected text message to your phone number. You must know how to identify and avoid text message scams. That is what we are going to uncover next as we will be explaining how to identify scam texts.
The Text Message is Irrelevant To You
First, if the message's goal is completely irrelevant to you, it is likely spam. Best-case scenario, the text was probably intended for a different person. Hence, you should avoid and not react to it.
Random Prize Offerings
Just as we mentioned earlier, spam texts often feature random prizes. You're most likely receiving a spam message if you're provided with a rather unconventional and unexpected prize. So, it is best you avoid the message.
Suspicious Links Included in the Text Message Scam
If the text message has a suspicious link, then you definitely shouldn't engage with it. The link most likely has malware that can access your entire data, including your contacts, passwords to your social media, and bank accounts.
The Message's Tone is Urgent
Lastly, if the tone of the text message is urgent, you are most likely dealing with a text scam. Urgent tones include receiving texts saying a family member has been in a car accident or someone impersonating your bank asking for account information. Since they are providing you with specific warning signs, you will be tempted to act fast without thinking, and that's what leads to mistakes.
How Do Text Scams Target People?
Scammers usually don't have a strict structure when it comes to targeting people. They just collect a variety of phone numbers through different sources and then send text messages to engage with the people.
After enough data has been collected, scammers might start sending block messages in which they offer things that the victims might need. These include free money, gifts, new billing statement, etc. Basically, whatever they need to make the process easier to complete.
Those who fall to the texts of unknown senders will likely provide them with sensitive information; before they know it, they are victims of text scams.
Common Signs of Fake Text Messages
Apart from the obvious ways to distinguish someone looking to gain access to your sensitive information, there are a few common signs of fake text messages.
Legitimate companies and individuals always act professionally, even when it comes to minor details. Scammers are not that effective in this field. So, from time to time, they may make grammar mistakes in their texts. If you spot poor grammar, then you're almost definitely receiving scam text messages.
Let's start with the fact that no one is ever offering free money to anyone. Some people are still unaware that, and if the text message features certain information, like getting a refund for a service or product, it is likely fake.
When scammers want to gain access to sensitive info such as personal banking information, they will likely include inaccurate statements. These statements aim to convince you that there aren't any signs of SMS phishing. That is why you should double-check any fact or statistic the text may feature.
Hidden Mobile Phone Number
When a legitimate business sends you text messages, the number can be seen, and you can easily check whether it is real or not. Scammers, however, will have their mobile phone numbers hidden. If the number is hidden, then you're most likely dealing with text scammers.
Some Examples of SMS Scams
To help you recognize scams easier and take immediate action, we are more than happy to provide you with a few spam text messages examples. These examples are some of the most common ways you will be lured into suspicious activity.
Urgent Message Related to A Family Member
People are far more likely to make a mistake when they think emotionally rather than rationally. That's exactly what scammers aim for when sending urgent messages related to family members. The text message might be something in the following tone:
- Hello, Mr/Mrs. This is [HOSPITAL-NAME], and we are texting you to let you know that your [FAMILY-MEMBER] has been in a terrible car accident and is currently waiting in the surgery room. We need you to send money to this account, [ACCOUNT-NUMBER], to start the surgery.
You've Won a Prize
The second example includes a phishing text saying you've won a particular prize. Who's not fond of receiving rewards right? The text could be something like the example below.
- Dear Customer! We're happy to inform you that you've won our jackpot of $100,000. To proceed with the transaction, please provide us with your online banking details via the link in the text. Our transactions are fast, and you'll receive them within 1 business day. Congratulations on winning our ultimate prize!
Verify Your Account
Our final example includes a spam text in which the sender is asking you to verify your account. This message has a suspicious link that most likely has malware.
- Dear customer. To have your bank account activated, you need to verify a few details with our bank. Follow the link in the text message to commence the process. You will gain full access to [BANK-NAME]'s services by activating your account.
What to Do When You Receive a Fake SMS
As a final note, it is worth knowing the things that you should do when you receive spam texts. Identifying fake text messages is one thing, but you should also know how to act against them.
Ignore the Message
The first and most common way of dealing with spam texts is to simply ignore them. Once you receive the message and decide it is a scam, either delete it or take no action. After all, the main goal of scammers is to provoke a reaction, and if you ignore it, then it is highly likely that you will be safe.
Reply with "STOP"
Some text scams might have automatic activity featured, and they might start collecting data right away. To prevent this, reply to the text message with "STOP." That way, you will prevent the sender from gaining financial information or other sensitive data.
Report the Message
To guarantee that the scammer is held responsible for the text scam, ensure that you report the message. There are two ways to do that. First, you can either report the message within the app itself. Secondly, US customers can report the text scam directly to the Federal Trade Commission.
Forward the Message to Your Provider
Finally, you can forward the message to your network provider. In doing so, the provider will gain information about the scammer and take action against them. Additionally, it will implement measures to ensure that you remain protected in the future.