Scammers have moved many of their schemes from the internet to consumers' phones, using texts to trick their victims. Recently, they’ve discovered the anonymity of texts works to their advantage.
For example, in the grandparent scam, the trickster has to disguise their voice, making someone believe they are talking to a grandchild who is in trouble and needs money. With a text, the pitch is even more effective – and dangerous.
Law enforcement officials and consumer advocates report a sharp increase in these types of imposter scams that show up on a victim’s phone as a text. A new favorite is a text that appears to be from your mom.
The phone’s Caller ID may display the word “Mom,” which is how many people have recorded a parent’s phone number in their contacts. The message is brief and to the point – “Mom” is out shopping and forgot her credit card. Could she borrow $150?
Who can refuse their mother? But wait – has your mother ever sent you a text in the past? If not, the message probably isn’t from her.
If you and your mother exchange texts fairly often, then the new message should be included in the thread of previous messages. If it isn’t, then the message is not coming from her number.
Just to make sure, check the sender’s phone number. That should confirm that the message isn’t coming from your mother.
As a final precaution, call your mother and ask her if she does, indeed, need a loan.
Just the beginning
Chances are, these kinds of scams will multiply in the months ahead. Now that telcoms have, at the government’s prodding, taken steps to block robocalls, scammers have moved to so-called “smishing” schemes. They might actually be more dangerous.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently warned of an increase in smishing schemes that claim to be from the tax agency. The scam messages often look like they’re actually coming from the IRS, complete with come-ons like fake COVID relief money, tax credits, or help setting up an IRS online account.
The IRS says all are scams because the agency never sends texts to taxpayers.