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Text scams on the rise: what you need to know

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Posted at 3:50 PM, Jul 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-26 21:11:54-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — “I got two on Sunday. That was Amazon and Costco. I don’t shop at either one.”

Jeanine Baran was nearly the latest victim of a text messaging scam known as “smsishing.”

“It was just like a one paragraph notification that my account was overdue or my package was on its way.”

The Buffalo woman said she’s been getting text messages from unknown numbers for the past several months. Each one claimed she won something from a retailer where she doesn’t shop or the U.S.P.S. claimed her package had been lost. Each also contained a link that requires her to put in personal information.

Baran said it was easy to detect that they were scams because she doesn’t shop at any of the stores identified in the texts.

But, not everyone is as lucky. the BBB said it is seeing an increase in complaints.

“Scammers know that people open text messages 98 percent of the time. So, it’s an effective way to communicate. But, people need to be on guard to know that sometimes these texts are scams,” said BBB Communications Director, Melanie McGovern.

Maureen Dempsy is the public affairs officer for the western N.Y. division of the F.B.I. She too said they’ve seen a dramatic increase in internet crime complaints over the course of the pandemic. From march of 2020 to march of 2021—the FBI saw a 70 percent increase in complaints. From 2000 to 2007 it received one million complaints. It has received the same amount of internet or text complaints over the course of the pandemic.

So why are scam artists so dialed in to text scams? Dempsy said texts have become a legitimate way to be notified about an upcoming appointment or package delivery. So, a scam can get overlooked. “Now that we’re seeing it more common place it’s more likely that you're not going to slow down and say oh what is that number?”

Here are some things experts say will make you more tech savvy:

-Know what you’re signing up for. Sometimes if you register for a retail mailing list, it may also include receiving text messages.
-Don’t ever click a text link or respond to a text
-Don’t give out any personal information
-Contact your carrier about possible blocking software

For more information on filing a complaint with the FBI and current fraud trends, click here.
To file a complaint with the BBB, click here.