What is a text scam?
Have you ever gotten an unexpected text message that seemed a little bit off somehow?
It might be a text directly or indirectly asking for your personal information — your password, account number or Social Security number. Or the scammer’s methods might be more subtle, collecting personal details like your mother’s maiden name, which can help them steal your identity later.
No matter the approach, the goal of a text scam is always the same: to get your personal information and eventually your money.
Text scam examples
Here are a handful of common text scams. The more familiar you are with these tactics, the easier it will be for you to recognize and avoid fraud.
Fake package delivery
Who doesn’t love receiving packages? These fraudulent texts may include a link to a malicious website for you to confirm account details or collect additional personal info. It’s better to log directly into the delivery service’s website to track your deliveries than take a chance on a random text link.
If something seems too good to be true, it probably is, especially when that something is a text announcing that you’ve won money, a trip, event tickets or some other extravagant grand prize. To receive the false jackpot, targets must send their personal info.
While there are telemarketers that offer legitimate lending options, there are no shortage of fraudsters peddling unsolicited debt-repayment assistance, especially services for student loans. Any loan application will require personal information, so be sure to confirm texted promotions with an independent website.
Payment processing problems
Worry is a powerful weapon, and some scammers wield it by warning targets that a payment to a vendor didn’t go through. If the text asks for account info in order to approve the payment, don’t do it. Instead, check with your financial institution or the payee directly.
How to avoid text scams
- Verify with another source — If a family member, friend, bank, or other business asks for your personal information or money, call the person or company making the request, using a known or recognized phone number, to make sure it’s legitimate.
- Be wary of unfamiliar numbers — You probably already have the names of friends or family members programmed in your phone. If a supposed acquaintance reaches out from a different number that doesn’t automatically ID them, be suspicious — and cautious.
- Customize contact names for your text alerts - When you enroll to receive text alerts from a company for the first time, you will receive an enrollment text to verify your phone number and authorize future text alerts. Use the initial enrollment text to create a contact on your phone and give it a unique name, so when you receive a legitimate text alert from that company, it will be easier to identify.
- Spot poor grammar — You don’t have to be an English major to recognize common errors in text messages. Missing words, a lack of capital letters, missing periods — these grammatical gaffs don’t belong in the texts of credible professionals.
- Do not respond — In the end, the safest response to a suspicious text is no response at all. If the request is crucial, the individual or business will try to contact you through other means. Meanwhile, fraudsters will move on to the next number on their list.
If you suspect you have been targeted by a text scam and have mistakenly provided your personal and/or account information to the scammer, please contact your local branch or our Customer Care Center at (800) 994-2500 (8:30 am - 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday) for assistance as soon as possible.