How to Identify a Fake Text Message

by | Aug 16, 2022

We all have at some point been texted by an unknown number saying we have won some contest that we never auditioned for, or sometimes, it’s cash funding that you never applied for. Now, you may think these messages are harmless and ineffective. They are, except you don’t engage them.

What Are Text Message Scams?

A text message scam is a form of phishing, where you get a message, sometimes from an unknown number, asking for a few of your details. Text scams are common and unfortunately, a few of them are easily mistaken for genuine messages.

You can’t fall prey to these text scams just by opening the text, however, they might send information that would convince you to click a malicious link sent alongside the text. Once you click the link or input your details, these swindlers can potentially access your sensitive data, such as bank accounts, PayPal etc. 

Text scams can come in different forms. You might receive a ‘We have a package for you, click here for more details’ or a ‘Congrats, you are eligible for business funding by the Bank of America’. Some texts are craftier than others, but they all have one objective, to defraud you. 

The target of these fraudsters is to trick you into providing valuable, private information. You are only safe if you don’t reply to their messages.  

How do these scammers get your contact in the first place? 

Well, your contact is not as safe as you think. Some scammers randomly dial a contact, or, someone who has your contact might decide to sell it out. Another probable way scammers keep getting your number is if you participate a lot in online raffle draws and fill your phone number into databases.

These texts are not only targeted at business owners, anyone can receive them. Once you’ve divulged relevant personal information, you’ve authorized them into your bank account, email info, and other databases. SMS fraud is a thing to be wary of.

The pandemic of 2020 led to major outbursts of these text scams. Thousands of people received these texts from supposed reputable bodies. A majority of them went to long lengths attempting to extort unsuspecting victims.

How To Know That A Message Is Fake

Most of these fraudsters are quite smart and crafty. And they come up with new strategies now and then. So, there’s a probability that you would still be conned if you rely solely on your intelligence. 

However, here are a few tell-tale signs that you’re about to be conned by a not-so-smart fraudster. 

Lack of relevance

How did you get funding that you did not apply for? Most of these messages have no personalization. You could tell that they were simply not meant for you. A message out of the blue should be a major red flag for you, especially if it contains a link and asks you to access said link. 

Inaccurate facts 

Before you claim your admission or giveaway prize, rectify if said giveaway or admission is ongoing. Even if you applied for any of these, their agencies are likely to contact you via official mail, or through a shortcode. If you’re wondering how they got your info? Well, databases can be hacked.

Incorrect brand names and improper spellings

Some of these scammers aren’t exactly the smartest. How would a mail from a reputable company be full of such outrageous grammatical errors? Even if the message comes from a short code and is choked with grammar errors or incorrect brand name and information, ignore it.

Dubious links

Links are the aspect you should be most careful about, especially if they come in texts and not emails. Viruses can be unleashed into your device if you click a malicious link. 

Often, these links would lead to sites that would require you to provide your login details to a specific account, e.g Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. Once you sign in with your details, there’s a high probability that your account will be hacked.

Untraceable numbers

A reputable organization such as a bank will never contact you with a 10-digit number. Do not respond to texts that claim to be from a firm or service that you signed up for if you cannot recognize the number. 

Even if they claim to notice suspicious activity from your account or transaction, do well to rectify their authenticity before you indulge them. Also, note that banks will never ask for your details, all your information has been recorded in the database. If there is an issue to be rectified, you would be invited to physically visit the branch.

Outstanding promises

Some of these texts will tell you that you’ve won a million dollars, or just simply promise you something extravagant or inform you of some sort of giveaway that is almost irresistible. 

There’s a 99% guarantee that such messages are fake, especially if they aren’t from a shortcode. Be especially careful if they tell you that you have already won a said prize and you would have to divulge personal information to claim it. They’re simply trying to get to you.

Intensive call to action

It seems these scammers are now hiring highly competent copywriters to craft their scam texts. The text is almost like a copy that demands that you act almost immediately, especially if there’s a prize to claim for you to get any of these urgent texts, it would be best if you verify their authenticity before you jump on the offer. Refrain from submitting to FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out!

How to Respond to Suspicious Messages

If you receive a message that looks suspicious, here’s what to do:

Do not Respond

Simply ignore these messages, especially if they contain any of the scam signs listed above. Delete them if you may. On no account should you even tap a link or send a responding message.

Get text filters

If you’re tired of the spam, just get a call-blocking app that allows you to shut off messages from unwanted sources. There are a number of these apps that can help you with these tasks, luckily, most of them are free.

Report fraudulent messages to appropriate authorities

You either report these spam messages to your service provider or the Federal Trade Commission. These agencies will access the sender’s account, and if there are other reports against the same number, actions will be taken to prosecute them

Final Thoughts

Text scammers may be trying their best to get a victim, but lucky for us all, there are numerous ways to detect and avoid these scams. If you adhere to the guide above, we’re certain you’d never fall prey to these dubious entities.

Further reading: How to Report a Spam Text

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