The rise of texting and phone scams and why you should be concerned

The text was from a number I didn’t recognise, but no doubt I knew the sender’s name.

He introduced himself as the CEO of a company I’ve worked with for years, and he wanted to ask me a favor. Would I mind going to the nearest Apple Store and sending them a list of the prepaid cards available? He planned to buy a few for his co-workers as a surprise.

I immediately had doubts.


First, the CEO is in California and I’m 2,500 miles away in Massachusetts. He also hijacked my call request to confirm details by stating that he was on a conference call with a client, an unlikely excuse on a Saturday afternoon.

When I again insisted that he call to confirm, the texter fell silent forever.

A quick search revealed that Apple gift card scams are so widespread that Apple has dedicated a page to them on their support site.

According to a report published by Truecaller last week, phone and SMS scams are out of control and the problem is only getting worse.

The survey of more than 2,000 American adults found that one in three was a phone scam victim, with an average loss of $577, up from $502 in 2021.

The company predicted that nearly $40 billion was lost to phone fraud in the United States alone in the last 12 months.

Meanwhile, spam – dubbed “smishing” for the combination of SMS and phishing – has more than doubled in three years. Robkiller estimated that 87 billion of these were sent in 2021, up 58% from the previous year, and that combined they resulted in about $10 billion in losses.

trust vsrise

The epidemic destroyed the web of trust around an essential form of communication.

Truecaller found that 90% of respondents to its survey said they would only answer calls if they knew the caller’s name, although one in four admit to missing legitimate calls by doing so.

The problem remained stubbornly resistant to automated solutions.

Last year, the FCC began requiring phone companies to adopt a set of protocols called STICK/SHAKE, intended to provide a framework for verifying the identity of caller ID information.

Although most operators complied, research shows scammers were quick to find ways to circumvent the restrictions. For example, last week I received a supposed call from my healthcare provider, which turned out to be a guy trying to sell me a car warranty.

To protect thereourselves

Assuming the problem is still with us, there are a few steps you can take to protect yourself.

stop and think. Scammers prefer messages designed to evoke knee-jerk reactions, e.g. B. Notification that your bank account is about to be closed. Think about it:

Would an institution in a highly regulated industry like financial services send such information via SMS?

put onDon’t answer calls from people you don’t know. Sure, many of us already do this, but scammers are using new tactics like fake calls to make it appear they’re coming from a similar area code and number as yours.

Even if the caller ID looks legitimate, it’s safer to transfer the call to voicemail than to answer the call and reveal that your number is a real person.

Never click on a link in an anonymous text message. Temptation is sometimes hard to resist. For example, while I was in Spain a few weeks ago, I received what appeared to be an SMS from my credit card company, telling me that my account was suspended for suspicious activity and that I should click a link to restore service. A call to the provider’s local number told me the opposite.

Never click on links in text unless you know the sender very well, and never click on a URL from a link shortening service.

Never influence a message telling youI made money. I mean come on

Never discover Personal information to a texter or caller unless you are sure of it identify. Legitimate companies will never ask you to do this.

Finally, an interesting tip from Reader’s Digest:

If you answer a call and hear “Can you hear me?” you should hang up immediately. Crooks do this to trick you into saying “yes,” an answer they record and then use to unlock all sorts of sensitive information using voice response systems.

It’s a shame that so much innovative energy is wasted on such predatory tactics.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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