Avoiding Text Scams

Let's face it, we love texting and receiving texts, but scammers use the speed of text communication to their advantage: they hope you won’t slow down and overthink what’s in the message.

A new analysis from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) shows that fake financial institution fraud warnings were the most common form of text message scams reported to the agency in 2022 - nearly twenty times the number since 2019. These texts are designed to create a sense of urgency, often by asking people to verify a large transaction they did not make. Those who respond are connected to a fake financial institution representative. If you are targeted by this scam, you might get a fake number to call about supposed suspicious activity or might be asked to reply “yes or no” to verify a large transaction that you DID NOT make. If you reply, you may get a call from the (fake) “fraud department”.

According to the FTC’s report, victims state they thought the financial institution was helping them get their money back. Instead, money was transferred OUT of their account. Worse still, many people report giving their Social Security number and other personal information to scammers, leading to possible identity theft. Even educated people who know better than to give personal information over the phone or through text have found themselves victims of these scams by simply clicking on a link to refuse the transaction. Oftentimes this link installs harmful malware onto the phone, which then steals personal and financial information without the victims even realizing it.

The FTC reports that this scam is increasingly popular because “texting is cheap and easy, and scammers are counting on the 'ding' of an incoming text being hard to ignore.”  Plus, we all get a little nervous when it comes to our account information or personal data being compromised. After bank impersonation, the most frequently reported text scams were: “messages claiming to offer a free gift, often from a cell phone carrier or retailer; fake claims of package delivery issues from the USPS, UPS, or FedEx”; and Amazon security alerts warning you your account has been frozen.

Credit Unions nationwide are working to combat this growing financial crime. On behalf of Credit Unions, the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) is urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to require mobile wireless providers, and entities that originate text messages, to investigate and potentially block texts from a sender after they are on notice from the FCC that the sender is transmitting suspected illegal texts. Additionally, CUNA has urged the FCC “to work with mobile wireless providers, and other entities involved in the texting ecosystem, to design an authentication framework that prevents criminals from successfully sending text messages that impersonate legitimate companies,” while at the same time ensuring that text messages from legitimate companies are not blocked.

While CUNA advocates getting these important regulatory changes made, Independent Federal Credit Union wants to help our members avoid text scams by continually reminding you of the following:

• Never click on links or respond to unexpected texts. If you think the text might be legitimate, we encourage you to contact Independent Federal Credit Union or another company using a phone number or website you know is real. Never use the contact information provided in the text message and avoid responding to the text.

• Filter unwanted texts. Your phone may have the option to filter and block spam or messages from unknown senders. [See FTC’s resource link below on How to Block Unwanted Calls]

• Never give personal or financial information in response to a request you didn’t expect. Independent Federal Credit Union and other honest organizations that have their members' or customers' best interest top of mind, will not call, email, or text to ask for personal information, such as Social Security numbers, credit union account information, or credit card numbers.

• Stop and talk to someone you trust. Before you do anything else, tell someone — a friend, a family member, a neighbor — about the text. Talking about it could help you realize it’s a scam. If you are in doubt and want reassurance, bring the suspicious text to the Independent Branch and we will help you navigate the authenticity.

For more information:

How to Block Unwanted Calls, Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Advice.

The top text scams of 2022, Federal Trade Commission, Data Spotlight, June 2023

Article Authored by Colleen Kelly - National Credit Union Association [NCUA] - Edited and Posted by Independent Federal Credit Union