As more Americans, particularly seniors, become comfortable with conducting financial business via their smartphones, scammers have moved to where the money is, raking in $330 million in text-based fraud last year.
Whether you’ve been texting for decades or just catching up, you’ll likely see some of the five scam types below pop into your messages in the not-too-distant future. Some may have service-related spins, with the military community remaining a high-value target.
Here’s what to look out for, courtesy of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Cybercrime Support Network, which partners with MOAA and other organizations to help servicemembers and veterans avoid fraud:
1. ‘Security’ Check
What: A text claiming to report suspicious activity in your bank account or threatening to suspend account access without two-factor authentication.
Watch For: Misspelled words or phrases in the message, an unknown or international sender, an urgent tone requesting “immediate action.”
What Next: If you’re worried the request may be legitimate, don’t respond to the text. Instead, go online to the bank’s website and log in from there, or find the bank’s phone number via the site and call a representative. If you’re a veteran, remember: The VA will not ask for personal information via email or text, and you can confirm the legitimacy of any VA messages by calling (800) 827-1000.
2. Delivery Drama
What: A text claiming you’ve missed a package and providing a phone number to call and resolve the situation, or a message requesting login information for your Amazon account (or other service) to sort out a misplaced or delayed order.
Watch For: Requests that seek seemingly unrelated personal information, or demand you input your username/password for access.
What Next: If the text provides a number to call, don’t call it – it may seem like a way to confirm the message, but you could be contacting a fake company representative. Log into your shopping card (or shipping service) to sort out any potential problems.
3. You’re a Winner!
What: Seemingly random texts from well-known stores or companies offering free products, cash, or other rewards.
Watch For: These may be the easiest to spot, especially if the generous “company” behind the giveaway asks you to cover a small “shipping fee” for the product by offering your credit card information.
What Next: Don’t press your luck. As with all scams on the list, you can report the potential fraud.
4. Suspect Subscriptions
What: Messages requesting new payment information for Netflix, Hulu, or any number of subscription services, claiming the initial payment didn’t go through.
Watch For: Spelling or punctuation errors in a message allegedly from a major brand. Misplaced or misshapen logos, or other branding issues. A link taking you to a website with a URL that doesn’t match the service’s web presence.
What Next: Like the security scams above, check the account in question if you believe the request may be legitimate. Don’t attempt to log in via a text link.
5. Out of the Blue
What: A deceivingly simple message – “This You?” or “Look Here!” – from an unrecognized number, with an attachment or link.
Watch For: Everything – an attachment could introduce malware onto your device and put your personal details at risk. A link may send you to a website with similar results or another type of scam attempt.
What Next: As with emails, it’s important not to open attachments from unrecognized or unverified senders.
MOAA Can Help
Check out the following MOAA.org resources for facing down frauds of all types:
- From our financial and benefits expert: Protect Yourself From These 5 Common Fraud Schemes
- Three-part series: Don’t Be Scammed
- Recorded webinars (available to Premium and Life members): An Overview of Scams and Frauds | Outsmart the Scammers: How to Spot and Avoid Financial Fraud | Protecting Yourself From Cybercrime and Scams
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