Spam texts are surging and many of them are scams

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Robotexts rose by 157% in 2022

You may be getting fewer robocalls these days but chances are you’re being flooded with robotexts. As carriers have improved call screening, spammers – many of them scammers – have switched to text messages.

In a recent study, Robokiller found Americans received nearly 226 billion spam messages in 2022, a huge increase over the previous year. There are fewer robocalls because the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has pressured major carriers to block them. But Peter, a Pure Talk customer from Mecosta, Mich., said he still gets a lot.

“I am absolutely inundated with spam calls,” Peter wrote in a ConsumerAffairs review. “I signed up for the National Do Not Call Registry but it did little to help.”

The Robokiller study found scammers have not exactly abandoned phone calls, it’s just that it’s harder to reach people. They made 78.2 billion robocalls last year, an 8% increase over 2021.

Reasons for the shift to texts

The telecommunications industry has made progress in curbing spam calls, notably by adopting STIR/SHAKEN, the mandatory regulation for voice service providers designed to stop caller ID spoofing. Robokiller said the scammer community made a wholesale shift to texting last year, and not just because of the cellular industry’s blocking strategy.

“Another reason behind the shift is the fact scammers understand where to find people,” the authors wrote. “They know we live in a text-first society and that by keeping up with social trends and events they can take advantage of people's vulnerabilities with compelling cons.”

The study notes that delivery scams increased 156% from October to November as the holidays approached. The study concludes that the threat will not only persist but grow.

The FCC’s advice

The FCC says consumers who have filed complaints with the agency said some of the texts resemble email spam, with links to unwanted and unsolicited products. Some appear to be ploys to steal valuable personal or financial information.  

Some recipients have been pressured to log in to a fake bank website to verify a purchase or unlock a credit card that was frozen. Others use package delivery updates as phishing bait. 

The FCC recommends the following:

  • Do not respond to texts from unknown numbers, or any others that appear suspicious.

  • Never share sensitive personal or financial information by text.

  • Be on the lookout for misspellings, or texts that originate with an email address

  • Think twice before clicking any links in a text message. If a friend sends you a text with a suspicious link that seems out of character, call them to make sure they weren't hacked.

  • If a business sends you a text that you weren't expecting, look up their number online and call them back.

  • Remember that government agencies almost never initiate contact by phone or text.

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