A few weeks ago, I woke up this morning to a text message on my smartphone. It was not my editor or a family friend in a different time zone. It was a message from me.
“Free message: your bill was paid for March. Thanks, here’s a small gift for you” Read the text of my phone number, pointing me to a web link.
In the past month, I have received such scripts. In online forums, many Verizon customers share a similar experience.
It was clear to me what was happening. Scammers used Internet tools to manipulate the phone network to send me messages with a number they were not actually textting. This is the same way that robots use “spoof” to make phone calls as if they were coming from a legitimate person, such as neighbors. If I clicked on a web link, I would often be asked for personal information, such as a credit card number, that could be used for a scammer fraud.
Consumers have been battling cellphone spam for years, mainly in the form of robots calls for scammers to pay constant student loan delays, audits by the Internal Revenue Service and fraudulent messages about expired car warranties.
Only recently has cellphone fraud been shifting more to texting, experts said. Spam text from all kinds of phone numbers – and not just your own – is on the rise. In March, 11.6 billion scam messages were sent to US wireless networks, up 30 percent from February. Further, robotics, which grew by 20% in the same period, according to an analysis by Teletech, which manufactures anti-spam tools for phones.
Verizon confirmed that it was investigating the text problem. On Monday, it said it had resolved the issue. “We recently closed the source of a text messaging scheme in which bad actors were sending fraudulent text messages to Verizon’s customers that came from their recipient number,” said Adria Tomaszewski, Verizon’s spokeswoman.
Representatives of AT&T and T-Mobile said they did not have the same problem. But text spam affects all wireless subscribers, and carriers now offer online resources on how people can protect themselves and report spam.
Text schemes vary widely, but often include the tracking updates for the delivery of fake packages, or health products and information on online banking by linking messages to your personal data. Their rise is partially accelerated by the fact that messages are much easier to send, Tillich said. In addition, industry and government efforts to push robots calls to scammers may be pushing them to text messages.
“Scammers are always looking for the next big thing,” said Julia Porter, Vice President of Teletalk. “Spam text is growing at a much narrower rate than just spam calls.”
Here’s what to look for with text schemes – and what you can do.
What a spam text looks like
By far the most common text scheme is a message that mimics a company that is offering shipping updates on a package, such as UPS, FedEx or Amazon, according to Teltech.
Last week, I received messages saying that a Samsung TV – a big ticket item that grabbed my attention – couldn’t be delivered. Another ad for an anti-aging skin cream. Another message outlined the benefits of a product that cures brain fungus.
Look for these duplicate symbols in a deceptive text:
Scheme texts usually come from phone numbers that are 10 numbers or higher. Authorized trading companies usually send messages with four-, five- or six-digit numbers.
The message contains incorrectly spelled words intended to prevent spam filters from wireless carriers.
The links in the scheme text often look strange. Unlike traditional web links created from “www.websitename.com”, they are web links that contain phrases or phrases, such as droppoundsketo.com. This exercise, called URL masking, involves using a fake web link that directs you to a different web address that asks for your personal information.
How to protect yourself
First and foremost, never click on a link or file in a suspicious message.
Of course don’t respond to such a message. Even typing “stop” will indicate to a scammer that your phone number is active.
To report a schematic text, AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile offer the same number for forwarding messages: 7726. After proceeding, the carrier asks for the phone number from which the message originated.
If text spam is becoming too much, spam filtering apps like Teltech’s TextKiller are there to help. The app, which blocks spam text for $ 4 a month, scans incoming messages from phone numbers that are not in your address book. If the text is known as spam, it is filtered into a folder with the label “junk”.
TextKiller was perfect – maybe too complete. It successfully caught five spam messages in five days, but it also accidentally filtered two legitimate messages, including Verizon’s response to thank me for reporting spam and an AT&T spokesman’s message. So I would not recommend paying $ 4 per month for this app, which is only available for iPhones, unless the spam text is really unbearable for you.
One more practical solution is to use free tools to reduce the barriers of spam texts. On iPhones, you can open the Settings app, tap the message and enable the option to “Filter unknown senders”. It keeps messages from the numbers that aren’t in your phone book in a separate messages folder. On Android phones, you can open the Messages app, enter in spam message settings and enable “Block anonymous senders”.
Lastly, both iPhones and Android devices include the ability to open a message setting and block a specific number from contacting you.
The moral of this story is: we can help prevent spam from flooding our phones if we stop sharing our phone numbers with people we don’t trust completely. This includes a cashier at a retail store who receives our phone number to receive a discount, or an app or website to ask us for a number when we sign up for an account. Who knew that our numbers would end up reaching the hands of marketers eventually?
A good idea is to come up with another set of numbers for all of us who can create free internet calling apps like Google Voice, which we call Burner Phone Numbers.
That way, the next time a scammer tries to send you a text, it won’t come from your own number.