(WHNT) — Robocalls are annoying enough, but robotexts? According to the Federal Communications Commission, scammers are adding another tool into their arsenal to annoy Americans.
The FCC tracks complaints as opposed to actual call volume, but the agency’s own stats show complaints about unwanted text messages have risen steadily in recent years. Around 5,700 complaints were filed in 2019, 14,000 in 2020, 15,300 in 2021, and 8,500 through June 30, 2022.
Scammers want you to interact with them when they send you a text message, the FCC explains. They often use believable, but false, claims in an effort to collect your money or personal information, or to ensure your number is active for future scams.
What to Look For
These scam text messages can take many forms, according to the FCC, claiming:
- You have unpaid bills
- There was an issue with a package delivery
- There is an issue with a bank account
- You have an outstanding warrant or another issue with law enforcement
In all these cases, the FCC said these texts may use fear and anxiety, as well as confusing or incomplete information, to get you to engage with the scammer.
Scam texts, also known as “smishing,” often include some or all of the following:
- Comes from an unknown number and/or a number that’s 10 or more digits long
- Contains misleading/incomplete information
- Words that are misspelled to avoid blocking/filtering tools
- Contains mysterious links
- Is a sales pitch
How to Stay Safe
There are ways to protect yourself from these scammers. The FCC recommends that you:
- Don’t respond to suspicious texts (even by texting STOP)
- Don’t click on any links
- Don’t provide any information, whether by replying or through a website in the suspicious message
- File a complaint with the FCC (online or by calling 888-225-5322)
- Forward unwanted texts to SPAM (7726)
- Delete the suspicious texts
- Keep your smart devices (and security apps, if applicable) up to date
- Consider installing anti-malware software (if applicable)
- Carefully review company policies regarding opting out of text alerts and selling/sharing of consumer information
- Review text blocking tools offered on specific mobile phones (such as Apple’s built-in blocking on newer versions of iOS/iPadOS or the phone app on Android), and through third parties
The best rule of thumb is that if a text message is suspicious, don’t respond and instead call the business, organization, or law enforcement agency the message claims to be. Valid phone numbers can be found on a bill, the organization/business/agency’s official website, or official social media pages.
The FCC recently ordered phone companies to block scam robocalls promoting auto warranties. All U.S. voice services providers must “take all necessary steps to avoid carrying this robocall traffic” or regularly report ways they are mitigating the traffic to the FCC, the agency announced in a press release earlier this month.