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BBB, FTC say fake text message scams on the rise

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Posted at 12:00 PM, Sep 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-01 13:00:39-04

You're busy at work or waiting for kids at school, or maybe in the middle of some other daily task, and you get a text from your cell provider, saying they owe you a refund. Great news, right?

Not so much. Respond, and you may become a victim of a scam spreading across the country.

It's called smishing. Where scammers phish for your financial information by using short messaging through texting, and it can look like the text is coming from any company you do business with.

In a case brought to our attention by Harold from Broken Arrow, it happens to deal with a fake text supposedly from AT&T.

The text said, "We accidentally overcharged your phone bill last month. Kindly your compensation here."

And then it gave a link to click on to get his refund.

"My cell service is with AT&T," Harold tells us, "so it caught my attention, and I always get texts from them when my bill is due, and after I pay the bill. But I noticed this text had grammatical errors, so I was suspicious."

Good thing. Security experts say clicking on a suspicious link could lead to malware and compromise your personal data.

It can help scammers raid your bank or credit card account.

If you have questions about your account, call the company directly, do not click on any links coming to your out of the blue.

Of course, when grammar and language seem odd, it's a big red flag it's a scam. But the Federal Trade Commission says scammers try to catch people off guard when they're already having a busy and crazy day... when they're most likely to respond, without thinking much about it first.

The FTC and Better Business Bureau say there are other similar scams going around. Here are a few:

  • Text messages that request personal information, such as your Social Security number or an online account password.
  • A message that asks you to click a link to resolve a problem, win a prize or access a service.
  • Messages claiming to be from a government agency.
  • The FTC says government bodies almost never initiate contact with someone by phone or text.
  • And there are text scams going around offering coronavirus-related testing, treatment or financial aid, or requests personal data for contact tracing.

We have more do's and don'ts when dealing with suspicious texts, emails, or calls.


Do contact the company or organization that supposedly sent the text, using a phone number or website you know to legitimate if you think it might concern a genuine problem.

Do forward spam and scam texts to 7726 (SPAM), the spam reporting service run by the mobile industry. This sends the text to your carrier so it can investigate. Cybersecurity company Norton has a guide to the process.

Do consider using tools that filter or block unwanted messages or unknown senders:

  • Your mobile device may have built-in spam protection. Check the settings on its messaging app.
  • Most major wireless carriers offer call-blocking services.
  • Some call-blocking apps also filter out junk texts.


Don't provide personal or financial data in response to an unsolicited text or at a website the message links to.

Don't click on links in suspicious texts. They could install malware on your device or take you to a site that does the same.

Don't reply, even if the message says you can “text STOP” to avoid more messages. That tells the scammer or spammer your number is active and can be sold to other bad actors.

Don't assume a text is legitimate because it comes from a familiar phone number or area code. Spammers use caller ID spoofing to make it appear the text is from a trusted or local source.

Report suspected smishing to the FCC and the FTC.

The website of CTIA, a Washington, D.C.-based trade association that represents the U.S. wireless industry, has lists of apps for Android and Apple devices that block robocalls and spam texts.

Contact the Problem Solvers:

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