Identity Theft

Text Message Scams From AT&T, BOA, USPS, DMV, Amazon, Etc: How To Report & Stop Them

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Scam phone text that reads: Free Msg: Your bill is paid for March. Thanks, here's a little gift for you.

We’ve been receiving reports of a mass proliferation of group scam text messages that look like the following. Needless to say, do not click on the link. This looks to be a phishing type scam, the goal of which is ultimately to try and obtain sensitive information from you. The destination site may also contain malware, which tries to implant malicious software (think virus) on your phone or computer.

Example Text Message Scam

Free Msg: Your bill is paid for March. Thanks, here’s a little gift for you: [link redacted for security].

Screenshot of a fake Michael Kors sale text message

This is just one example of a text message scam, but there are countless others. There are some that are disguised to look like they’re coming from a friend, and even those made to look like you sent the message to a group yourself. Regardless of the text message origin, “when in doubt throw it out.” In other words, don’t click on any links and just delete the message. And unlike our email which can flag and filter for spam, annoying text messages can pop up on our phones at anytime.

You may also receive messages from companies you commonly deal with, these include but are not limited to mega corporations such as AT&T, Bank of America, the postal service (USPS), UPS, Fedex, the DMV, Amazon, and countless other banks and utility companies. Our rule of thumb is to never click a link or call a number in a text message or email – instead, type the company website name directly into your browser, or call the company using a known number. Need help finding out what those are? Ask us in the comments, we’re glad to help.

What To Do If You Receive A Text Message Scam

If you receive a text message from someone you know that looks suspicious (caller ID’s can be spoofed), or from an unknown number or user:

  1. Do not click on it or open it.
  2. Do not reply (if you do you will be confirming that your phone number is active).
  3. Block the caller
  4. Delete the message

Be cautions of messages with Emoji-overkill – anything with cats and pointing fingers is not only fake it’s desperate!

And messages that exaggerate the sense of urgency like “HURRY” or “SHOP NOW”, have all caps or excessive punctuation!!! Those are a scam too.

How To Stop Them

Unfortunately there is no way to completely stop spam or scam text messages (we wish there was!). This might be up to phone companies and the FTC working something out that blocks this type of activity (and these types of accounts) to begin with. Meanwhile, if this becomes a recurring problem, you can try and block the phone number the message is being sent from (iPhones, for example, offer this feature by clicking on the sender and then scrolling down and selecting “block contact”). Here’s detailed instructions from Apple on how to do this.

On Android phones, you can block both known and unknown numbers. In your phone app browse to “More” (the three vertical dots), then “Call History,” tap a number you want to block, and then select “block/report spam.”  To block unknown numbers (a feature not available on iPhones), browse to More, then Settings, then “Blocked Numbers,” and toggle on “Unknown.” Detailed instructions, including how to unblock a number you accidentally blocked, in the Google phone help center.

How To Report Them

On iPhones all you can do within the phone features is block the number, as specified above. In Android phones you can block and report a conversation.

To report the number, copy the message and forward it to 7726 (SPAM). You can also report it to the FTC.

Texting Scams That Are Hot And Trending

These texting scams are currently making the rounds, so we’re putting them here at the top of our list as a higher priority caution.

The Zelle “Pay Yourself” Scam

This scam comes in the form of a text message that looks like a fraud alert from your bank. The exact text varies, but typically reads something like “Did you approve a purchase of $345 from Blue Widgets Inc.?” Follow our recommended steps above and do not respond to the text or call a number (if one is included). If you do, you’ll receive a callback from a blank number, with the perpetrator pretending to be a bank representative. They will tell you that in order to stop the fraud you need to send funds to yourself via the payments processor Zelle®. They will then ask you for the one-time code you receive. If you give them this code, they will use it to enroll their bank account with Zelle® using your phone number or email, and will now have the ability to receive funds intended for you into their account.

More Examples Of Scam Text Messages

Due to reader demand, we’re adding example scam texts here as we receive them. Got your own you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments. By posting these examples here we can help prevent others from becoming victims.

The Link Scam

The most basic scam message simply contains a link.

text message scam basic link png
The basic link text scam

Why It’s A Scam

Here the perpetrator is trying you to simply click the link, either accidentally or out of curiosity to see what it is. These tend to be the most aggressive types of landing pages (a “landing page” is the website you end up on after clicking the link) since they haven’t put in the up-front work of tricking you into expecting a certain website or another (like a UPS form for a missed package, for example). In other words, simply clicking the link could end you up on a site that will attempt to inject malicious code, a worm or virus into your computer or web browser.

The Real Estate Scam

We seem to get this one a lot, from all different kinds of names and numbers.

Screenshot of a scam text message that says 'How's it going, Roy? I am Trish and I buy valuable homes like yours locally. Do you have a couple of minutes to chat about 8309 Lakedale Cir?'
The real estate text scam

Other Variants

Hey my name is Jacob. I am simply wondering if you were taking offers on your place at 8309 Lakedale Cir? We were thinking about buying in the area. Thanks.

Why It’s A Scam

This is purely a scammer trying to get in touch with you so they can extract sensitive information from you. They’ll probably ask for sensitive details such as name, address, bank account to verify the property and initiate the fake real estate deal.

The Shipping Scam

You will need to change your shipping information before we can continue to ship to you. [link redacted].

Why It’s A Scam

Most of us these days are expecting a package at some point. The scammer is hoping to get those that are, and to get them to click on the link before thinking about the fact that this text message provides zero information regarding the shipment or shipper.

The App Store Order Scam

Thank you for your order from App Store. Product Name: iQuickDate. Amount: $624.99 USD. DATE: October-19-2020 ORDER ID: 1LM72JB586 In case you haven’t placed this order, Please get in touch with our support team immediately 1-866-903-0263. For Opt Out Reply STOP.

Why It’s A Scam

This one tries to get your attention by posting a large (but still realistic) dollar amount for an order. If you react too quickly, you’ll think hey I didn’t order this and call the number. Other red flags include poor grammar, not to mention the fact that no App store (iOS, Android, etc.) sends order notices like this.

Walgreens Scam

Walgreens: This last message is to alert you that you’ve been among 232 given 1 price for a 3 min survey. Offer runs out in 5 hours [link redacted].

Why It’s A Scam

Walgreens does not send out messages like this. And notice the lack of professionalism in the writing style.

How To Identify Fake Websites

A lot of times the links in spam text messages will take you to a website. While the best approach is to not click links in text messages or emails (and rather visit destination websites directly by typing their address into your browser), we’ve written an article on how to spot fake websites that may come in handy next holiday shopping season.

Alex Schenker

Alex holds BS degrees in Management Science from the University of California at San Diego, and Computer Science from the New Jersey Institute of Technology. He is honored to share his nearly two decades of experience in home security and automation, cybersecurity and identity theft protection with our readers. He realized it was time for a home security system when his neighbor’s house got broken into. He has tried to stay ahead of the curve by proactively applying security technologies and software that protect not only his home and family but his personal identity, sensitive information and finances. In his spare time, Alex enjoys playing tennis, going on hikes with his wife and dogs and surfing.

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