Text messaging as a marketing tool is an effective and creative way to engage with an audience. As a consumer, it can be fun to receive discounts and text messages from your favorite brands.
But sometimes, your phone number falls into more devious hands. You start to get scam text messages regarding gift cards, subscriptions, or bank accounts you don’t recognize. You don’t even have a car warranty. You didn’t sign up for a hotel discount in Wisconsin.
Why are you getting these text message scams, and how do you stop them?
How to Stop Scam Text Messages
There are several different ways to stop scam text messages, and a lot of it depends on the type of spam text messages they are. The first thing you’ll want to do is Google the number. Googling the number can help you verify if this is a legitimate business or if there’s a more serious scam going on here. What’s the difference between an annoying brand sending spammy messages, and a company trying to scam you?
After you’ve verified the business is legitimate – a company or marketing plan – you can usually just reply “STOP” and be unsubscribed. If this is a text messaging scam though, replying to it doesn’t work. If you can’t verify who the number belongs to or if it’s a scam or not, do not reply to the message.
The best way to stop getting scam text messages is to block the number.
Block Messages on iPhone
Block text messages on your iPhone by opening the text message and taping on the phone number. After you’ve clicked on the info button, you can tap on details and then their phone number. And then you can select Block Number.
Block Messages on Android
On Android, you can follow a similar process. You open your phone app and tap on the three-dot menu in the upper corner. Choose Settings and tap Block Numbers. It’ll give you a list of callers, and you can choose the numbers you want to block from this list. You can also manually enter the number. After blocking the number, you’ll no longer receive scam text messages.
Filter Unknown Messages
If you find that you’re frequently getting spam or scam text messages, you can turn a setting on your phone that will filter unknown messages, the same way that sites like Twitter and Instagram do. On iPhone, you’ll go to Settings and then Messages. From there, you’ll find a way to turn the Filter Unknown Senders setting on. On Android, this will be in your settings but under Caller ID & Spam. Be careful though! Settings like these can backfire if you’re expecting unknown numbers to contact you, like for a job.
How to Report Scam Text Messages
The next step to not getting scam text messages anymore is to report them. On iPhone and Android, there will be an additional step when you’re blocking numbers so you can report them in the same step. When blocking numbers on Android, you’ll simply make sure that the Report As Spam box is checked before you hit apply settings. On iPhone, it’ll give you the option to report any unknown number as Junk.
But is there anything you can do beyond that to report these text message scams?
As it turns out, yes. You can copy and forward the original text to 7726 (SPAM) free of charge, regardless of what cell phone carrier you’re using. You can also file an official complain with the Federal Trade Commission, since it’s technically illegal to send unsolicited commercial email or text messages without your consent. Their website even has an assistant who can walk you through the process.
What’s the goal of text messaging scams?
A lot of text message scams just want you to click on the link in the text message. From there, the link will install tracking software on your phone that can steal information for some of your most private accounts – your bank account, your email, and even private files right off your phone.
Sometimes scams are more interactive and ask you to pay a certain amount to some mysterious bank account. But even if the scammer doesn’t ask for any money, your bank account and information is still at risk once you interact with a scam text message.
Examples of Scam Text Messages
It can sometimes be hard to tell a real scam text message from a spammy one. Here are some frequent text messaging scams that have circled around the web.
Fedex Text Scam
It’s not unusual to get shipment updates when you’ve ordered something. In fact, these can be really helpful! However, if you get a text message from Fedex saying your package will be delivered soon, or with a link to track your package, think twice before engaging with it. The FTC says that when you get an unexpected message from FedEx (or any other mail service) with a link, you should take a minute to try and tell if it’s legitimate.
If you’ve previously received text messages from Fedex or any other carrier, you’ll be able to compare that message to the ones you’ve received previously. Sometimes, they’ll even come from the same email – so if you’re suddenly getting a Fedex text from a new number, be wary. And then there’s the obvious things: Did you order anything recently? Would anyone that’s sending something to you text you the tracking link?
Cash app Text Scam
It might make your day to receive a text message from Cash App (or any other banking app like Venmo, Zelle, etc.) that says a pending payment is waiting your confirmation. But if you’re familiar with these apps, you’ll know that while they do send you text message updates, they’ll never require you to click a link to finish the payment. So if you get a text message that says “$750 Cash-App-Transfer is pending your confirmation, wdzmsc.com/(my phone number) nxnrxqr.:, it’s a scam and you should absolutely not click on the link.
IRS Text Scam
With tax refunds right around the corner and all of 2020 abuzz with Stimulus Payment information, it might not seem too out of left field to get a text from the IRS about a pending payment to your account. However, the IRS would never just text you about payments. You can learn more about IRS Tax Scams on the IRS Website.
Gift Card Text Scam
While some of the earlier scams can be disproven by asking yourself whether you ordered anything or if you’re expecting this text/call, some text messaging scams take advantage of excitement and willingness to be surprised. If you get a text message saying that you won Walmart gift cards for example, it can be hard to stop yourself from clicking on the link. But gift card text messaging scams are all of the rage, and it can be costly to click on that link.
Text Message Scams with Links
It’s exceedingly rare that a legitimate text message from a business would only send you a link. If a text message is asking you to click on a link to see a message you received or reply with information to get access to an account, be skeptical. And if the link they send looks weird – like it’s just a combination of numbers rather than an actual site – then you need to report it as a scam text message immediately.
Remember, if you think you’ve received a scam text message, do not interact with it! Block, report, and move on.
Do you think you’ve received any scam text messages lately?