How to Spot a Text Message Scam

Katie DuncanJune 8, 2022

Reviewed By : Amplify

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Have you recently gotten a suspicious text message from an unknown sender? Chances are, it was a scammer looking to get your personal information. Scammers are finding new and more sophisticated ways to dupe unsuspecting people, and they’re turning to the most popular mode of communication today.

The bad news: there’s really no way to stop these kinds of texts if you want to keep your cell phone.

The good news: Even if you get a spammy text, there are ways to keep your information and identity safe.

Tips to Avoid Text Message Scams

Here are six tips to help keep your information out of the hands of text message scammers.

Tip #1: Never tap on a link in an unsolicited text message— even if it appears to be local.

Many spammy texts will encourage you to click a link. It may look something like:

  • Congratulations! You’ve won a gift card. Click [link] to claim your prize!
  • Your bank account has been locked. Click [link] and log in to secure your account.
  • You are receiving a package from FedEx. Visit [link] to set your delivery preferences.

If you aren’t 100% sure about the sender, do not click the link.

It is likely a phishing link. By clicking it, the attackers may receive basic information like your location, device statistics, and any info you may voluntarily provide. Additionally, the link may contain malware or exploit your way to your network or contacts.

Even if the text comes from a number with a familiar area code, be cautious. Today’s scammers can “spoof”—or pretend they are—any number.

Tip #2: Never respond to a text message unless you are 100% sure it’s legitimate.

Additionally, you should never respond to a suspicious text message. Never provide any personal or sensitive information— but don’t fall into the temptation of responding with something like “stop” or “wrong number” either.

Doing so lets a scammer know that your phone number is genuine and that you are likely to interact with spam. From there, a spammer will be more likely to bombard you with other offers and attempts to snag your information.

Tip #3: Watch out for the signs of fake text messages.

Knowing the common characteristics of a fake text can help you easily identify it. Spam usually has one or more of the following characteristics:

  • The message is random and has no relevance to you.
  • The content is urgent and needs immediate action from you.
  • It contains poor grammar or misspellings.
  • The message is coming from a strange number (The number is almost always spoofed).
  • The message may attempt to pose as someone you know or reference a family member, such as “Your daughter needs your help”

Just remember: If someone was really trying to urgently reach you, they would likely be able to do so by other verifiable means.

Tip #4: When in doubt, verify the text by calling the number you do know.

If you think that a text may be real, you can verify by calling the number that you know to be legitimate.

Say you get a text message from someone claiming to be from the IRS. It may give you a number to call and resolve a tax issue. Instead of calling the number that is listed in the text, you can call the official number listed on the IRS website. From there, you can speak to someone from the IRS who can verify the legitimacy of the text.

Note: In this scenario, the IRS would confirm that the text is indeed a scam. The IRS doesn’t initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text message, or social media channels.

Tip #5: Use the block caller feature on your mobile device to prevent any further messages from the spammer.

Getting repeated messages from the same number? Block the number on your phone to prevent unwanted messages from even getting through. Keep in mind that you still may receive more messages from other numbers.

Tip #6: Visit your carrier’s website to learn more.

To learn more about how you can fight spam, features that may be available on your device, or account help, visit your wireless carrier’s website. They may be able to provide more specific advice or information on how to stop spammy messages.

More Examples of a Possible Scam Text Message

Text message scams can take numerous forms. The following are some of the most common bank-related spam messages going around now:

  • The text informs you to call a certain number or numbers to reactivate your payment, debit, or credit card.
  • A text that tells you your credit card or debit card has been locked and asks you to enter your card number to have it unlocked
  • You receive a text from a suspicious number that you have fraud on your debit card and are asked to call or email them.
  • You receive a text that contains a phrase such as “FEDERAL CREDIT UNION ALERT: Your CheckCard has been temporarily LOCKED. Please call Card Services at [phone number].”
  • The message vaguely refers to a credit union or bank without naming it while instructing you to contact them

Even if your bank does contact you via SMS for fraud notifications, they will never ask you to provide your debit card number, PIN number, or any other personal information.

What to Do if You Suspect You’ve Received a Fraudulent Text Message

First and foremost, do not respond to the text message, and do not call any numbers that it asks you to.

If you think you’ve fallen victim to an attack, protect your identity and accounts.

  • Contact your financial institution immediately to report the incident. Not only can they help secure your account, but they can warn other account holders of common attacks.
  • Keep a close eye on your account and be on the lookout for any signs that your account has been compromised.
  • Change your passwords and sign up for two-factor authentication, if available.

If you wish to verify the validity of a message from Amplify, call us at 512-836-5901 or send us a secure message here.

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Katie Duncan

Katie Duncan is a financial writer based in Austin, Texas. Her articles include financial advice for freelancers, homebuyers, and more. When she’s not writing, Katie loves traveling and exploring the outdoors with her friends and her dog, Poe.