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Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Don't Fall for These Text Message Scams

 By Catherine Powell

Image courtesy pxhere

Texting used to be a useful and efficient method of communication.  It allowed us to interface with friends, send birthday greetings, and enable us to interact with others without having to step outside to take a call. But now thieves, con men, and hackers are using this medium to make many people's lives miserable.  Known as smishing, text message scams are on the rise.  Before you wind up succumbing to one of these con games, here are ten things you need to know.

1. Don't always take a text message as gospel. - One of the ways that scammers get people to divulge everything from personal information to credit card numbers is to intimidate them.  If you receive a text message from the IRS, the Social Security Administration, the police, or any other authority figure, don't fall for it.  None of these entities ever sends a text message.  The IRS and SSA always sends notification via snail mail and the police may come knocking at your door, but the cops don't send text messages.

2. We're closing your account! - Another entity that won't text you is your bank or lending institution, unless you opt-in for notifications of transactions.  Either way, when in doubt call your banker.  While a credit card company may send you a text, never respond to a text purportedly sent by one or hit any included link until you call the toll-free number on the back of the card.

3. Your shipment is hung up in transit. - One sure way to get hacked is to click on a link sent to you in a text message. Clicking on any spurious link can infect your device with malware.  Even if you recognize the name of the shipper, better to call them then take a chance that you're being led down the garden path.

Image courtesy pxhere

4. You're a winner! - One of the oldest scams in the book is telling someone that they've won something, only to require those who respond to pay a handling fee to claim their prize.  The only thing you'll win if you fall for this scam is a trip to the poorhouse as the con artists rack up purchases on your credit card.

5. I've got your number. - One of the latest ruses used to con you is to send you an innocuous text message from someone you've never heard of in your life.  The message might be something like, "Are we still on for coffee?"  The trick is to get you to respond by telling the sender that they texted the wrong number.  Then you'll receive a response thanking you for your kindness, followed by another message looking to keep you texting.  Because the responses seem so innocent, many people assume they're dealing with a kindred spirit, when in fact they're dealing with a cold, calculating, con artist who's looking to get his or her hooks into a sucker.

6. Family Emergency - The way this scam works is to convince you that a close family member is in dire straits and needs you to send money immediately to get them out of a jam.  Even if the phone number matches a close family member, don't fall for this trick since it's all too easy to spoof a phone number nowadays.  Instead of responding to the text, call the close family member and ask them if they sent you the text.  Don't be surprised if they ask you what you're talking about.

7. Just a little friendly advice. - If a friend sends you a text with an attached link, don't click on it unless you want to get hacked.  Better to call your friend to ask if they sent you the link then to wind up falling into a hackers clutches.  A girlfriend of mine wound up clicking on a link that she assumed came from her best friend only to wind up having all kinds of problems ensue.

Image courtesy pxhere

8. What should you do if you get a text from an unknown number? - Don't open it.  Mark it as spam and block it.  The only texts you should acknowledge or respond to are those numbers you know and trust. And even then, don't click on links unless you confirm them with the sender.

9. How can you tell if your smartphone has been hacked? - If your smartphone seems to be working a lot slower than normal or it restarts on its own, you may have been hacked. If you find apps on your phone that you didn't download or text messages you didn't make, you've been hacked.  If you find your smartphone has been hacked, you should first remove any spurious apps and back up any data, contacts, and photos before performing a factory reset.  This will usually evict any hackers from your smartphone.

10. What should you do if you find out you've been scammed? - If you discover that you've divulged personal or financial information to a con artist, there are several things you should do.   First, check all your banking and credit card statements to make sure that no unauthorized activity has occurred. Call the three credit reporting bureaus and have them freeze your credit.  This will make it impossible for fraudsters to open up any new accounts under your name.  Employ a fraud protection service to make sure that your personal and financial data aren't being sold on the dark web.  Document the scam. Contact the police to file a report. (Your bank may require a police report before they issue any refunds.)

Catherine Powell is the owner of A Plus All Florida, Insurance in Orange Park, Florida.  To find out more about saving money on all your insurance needs, check out her website at


  1. Just when you thought it was safe, along comes another techno-scam.

  2. These types of scam's started about 3 years ago and are getting worse. Best use your smart phones spam filter.


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