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Here's how thieves may use your phone to steal from you

Pay attention to your text messages. Scammers using text messages are on the rise and may use the holidays to trick you into giving up sensitive information.

AUSTIN, Texas — Thieves know you will likely read a text message before responding to an email … and instead of answering an unknown number.

“Seven percent of all text messages are opened and 92% of those are open within the first 30 minutes,” George Cray, iconectiv’s senior vice president, said. 

Fraud prevention is part of iconectiv’s company focus. The company is the administrator of the number portability in the U.S. 

“If you're looking for people to actually engage, a message will be a better way to reach them and probably have a better hit rate on what your scam is,” Cray said.

The Federal Communications Commission received more than 15,000 consumer complaints about unwanted text messages last year.

Cray said text scams may show a gift card or claim a shipment delay.

“You could have delivery situations where all of a sudden you're expecting a package. The scammer doesn't know that, but they send out messages to hundreds of thousands of people, and some percentage of those are expecting a package who would say, 'Oh, there's something wrong with the delivery and you need to click this link.' And if you get that and you just react and click that link, who knows where that may take you or what that may expose you to,” Cray said.

The Federal Trade Commission warns on its website, “The real USPS won’t contact you out of the blue about a delivery (unless you submitted a request first and give a tracking number) – and they’ll never demand payment to redeliver a package.”

In July, the FCC warned of the rising threat of scam robotexts, stating:

Scam text message – also known as "smishing" – sometimes utilize:  

  • Unknown numbers  
  • Misleading information  
  • Misspellings to avoid blocking/filtering tools  
  • 10-digit or longer phone numbers  
  • Mysterious links  
  • Sales pitches  
  • Incomplete information
Credit: KVUE, Tartila—stock.adobe.com

Cray said large companies usually rely on short codes that are five to six digits.

“Those five- and six-digit codes have to be applied for. There is a process by which they were approved in order for them to be used by the brand. And then there's also a vetting process and a monitoring process to ensure that they're being used legitimately and not being used as part of a scam,” Cray said.

He said to always use caution, though.

“I would never want to say 100% because nothing is foolproof, but the five- and six-digit codes from, you know, these large brands are much more likely to be trustworthy,” Cray said.

The FCC website gives the following tips to protect yourself:

  • Do not respond to suspicious texts, even if the message requests that you "text STOP" to end messages.  
  • Do not click on any links.  
  • Do not provide any information via text or website.  
  • File a complaint.  
  • Forward unwanted texts to SPAM (7726).  
  • Delete all suspicious texts.  
  • Update your smart device OS and security apps.  
  • Consider installing anti-malware software.  
  • Review companies’ policies regarding opting out of text alerts and selling/sharing your information.  
  • Review text blocking tools in your mobile phone settings, available third-party apps, and your mobile phone carrier’s offerings.”
  • Think twice before clicking any links in a text message. If a friend sends you a text with a suspicious link that seems out of character, call them to make sure they weren't hacked.
  • If a business sends you a text that you weren't expecting, look up their number online and call them back.
Credit: KVUE, oxinoxi—stock.adobe.com

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