Text message scams and scamming people through messages is on the rise.
In this article, I’ll give you 5 simple ways on how to spot a scam text, what to do if you get a scam text and how to stop it happening in the future.
I’ll also look at how these scams work – and why they work. Below is a handy table of contents, cick on any of the subheadings and it will take you directly to the place on the page.
Table of Contents
How These Scams Work
Text message scams work by sending large volumes of text messages to hundreds or thousands of phone numbers at a time.
The work is usually completed by a piece of automated software (sometimes referred to as a bot).
The text message will usually state a problem of some kind in the body of the message, as well as a link to click or a phone number to ring to resolve that problem.
The link will usually go to a website that looks legitimate, or a website that looks exacty like the website it mentions in the text message. However, it’s the scammers website made purposefully to look like a legitimate website.
Once there, it will prompt the user to log in to the site using their username and password.
Once the user inputs the username and password, that username and password is stored for use at a later time. The scam is complete – they scammers now have your log in details and password for that particular site.
Phone numbers will go to a premium rate phone number with an automated message designed to keep you on the line for as long as possible. Some will even have people answering at the other end, trying to get personal information and log in information from you.
These scams usually prey on shock, fear and confusion.
So usually a scam text will have content that:
- State that a payment has been made from your bank acount that you don’t recognise.
- State that an order has been processed from a retailer you’ve either heard of or not heard of.
- State that you have a parcel awaiting delivery.
- State that you owe money for a service or product you haven’t ordered.
Text scams also rely on what’s going on in the world, and world events that are out of the ordinary.
- During the Covid-19 pandemic for example, people received texts purporting to be from track and trace telling them they had been near a covid infected person. It then had a link where you could go and order a test.
- During the government energy rebate scheme, people received texts asking for their bank account details so they could be paid the £150 energy rebate.
There’s lots of other examples as well, so it is wise to treat every text message as suspicious until you can confirm it is real.
Text Scams – The Indicators
There’s a number of of subtle indicators that you should always look out for when receiving a text purporting to be from your bank, a parcel delivery company or an online retailer.
Some are easy to spot, some not so easy.
But they are there if you look hard enough. And part of the scammers reliance is, that you are not going to look hard enough.
Below is 5 ways to tell if the text you have received is a scam text or a legitimate text.
1. Spelling & Grammar Mistakes
The easiest way to spot a fake massage or scam text is to look for spelling or grammar errors contained within the text message.
Whilst errors won’t be present in every scam text, a large proportion of scam texts have either spelling mistakes or grammatical mistakes.
My advice is simple. Re-read a text and make sure the spelling is all correct. If it is, read the text out aloud, to make sure it reads correctly.
If there is any mistake like this, it points to the text being a scam text.
The reasons are simple: a lot of these scams come from abroad where English is not their first language.
2. Links To Click
There’s always a chance the text message you’ve received could be real.
Even if you think it’s real, never ever click on any link in a text message.
So you’ve got a text from Amazon stating your payment card has expired?
Go to Amazon by opening your browser and typing in the name of the website (or clicking your trusted bookmark), and if there’s any problem, it will be flagged somewhere in your account profile.
Most legitimate texts won’t include a link, instead the text will ask you to go to your account if there is a problem.
3. No Names
Is the text referring to you as your full name? Or does it start with ‘Hello’ or ‘Sir’ or ‘Madam’? Or worse, does it start by addressing you by your email?
Usually, a text message from a legitimate company will include your first name at least, but of course a scam text won’t know your first name, or any other details.
If a text doesn’t include your name, their is a likelihood it’s a scam text.
4. Reference To A Company You’ve Never Used
A lot of these scams will try and trick you into believing a company has taken money from an account, or you have an order pending.
For instance, you might get a text saying your Barclays Bank account is now overdrawn.
Yet, you know you don’t have a Barclays Bank account.
These types of scams are easy to detect, and the only reason you are getting is the fact they are sending the same text out to 10,000 people, in the knowledge that some of those people will have accounts with Barclays and some will click the link.
5. Phone Number
Usually, a text message from a bank will state the name of the bank at the top of the text message, instead of displaying a number.
If there is no name at the top of the text, and just a simple mobile phone number, this again can be an instant giveaway.
However, that being said, the scammers can still get away with this by buying numbers that display as names – it is getting harder for them to do this but it can still occur.
It’s Fake. What Should I Do?
There are a couple of things you should do if you suspect the text message you have received is fake.
- Forward the message and report it to the UK’s Cyber Crime division.
- Block the number.
There’s more info on how to do that on the National Cyber Security Centre website.
Millions of pounds have been fraudulently obtained through text message scams – don’t become a statistic.
The easiest way to avoid being scammed through text is very simple: do not click on any link that comes through as a text message and treat every text as a potential scam.
If you suspect a text message is genuine, don’t click the link – navigate to the website yourself by typing in the domain name in your browser.
Any actions you need to take will be flagged up on the website.
Also, don’t use any phone number provided on a text to call your bank – always use Google to find the correct number, or look on the website of the organisation you are trying to call.
Vigilance is key here, just like you are vigilant with emails, and unsolicited phone calls.
Be wary, be safe and always use caution before giving out any personal information.
Links & Other Articles
Here’s some other articles you may be interested in regarding text scams, as well as some other home security articles found on this website.
Questions & Comments
If you have any questions or comments about text or sms scams, feel free to leave them in the comments box below. Maybe you’ve been a victim of a text scam, or know somebody who has – what happened, and how was it resolved? Whatever your comment or question, drop it below and I’ll get right back to you.
Stay Safe. Stay Secure.