The FTC reveals what the hottest text message scams are right now

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Remember – anytime anyone mentions gift cards, don't move another inch

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports that bogus bank fraud warnings are the most common form of text message scams on its latest chart, and many of the most common scams impersonate well-known companies.

Wells Fargo? Check. Chase? Check. Citibank? Check. Bank of America? BIG check because 14% of the scams are tied to that bank.

If it were 2019, the numbers would be low. There were only 1,355 complaints about bank-related text message scams that year.

But, with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) making it harder for robocallers to survive, scammers have moved their game over to text messaging and the number of fraud reports nearly doubled in the last year, from 13,677 to 25,725, costing consumers more than $300 million in losses.

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The agency says the text scams still thrive on creating a sense of urgency, often asking people to verify a large transaction they did not make. But the current trend of the scam revolves around two things: supposed suspicious activity or trying to get someone to reply “yes or no” to verify a large transaction that they didn’t make. 

“If you reply, you’ll get a call from the (fake) fraud department,” the FTC’s Emma Fletcher wrote. “People say they thought the bank was helping them get their money back. Instead, money was transferred out of their account. This scam’s median reported loss was a whopping $3,000 last year. Worse still, many people report giving their Social Security number and other personal information to scammers, leading to possible identity theft.”

Other scams currently in the agency’s top five are:

Bogus “little gifts”:  Fletcher said that this text scam centers around a free gift, reward, or prize that may look like it came from a company you know like your mobile phone company or a large retailer. “But everything about this is fake. If you click the link and pay a small ‘shipping fee,’ you just gave your credit card number to a scammer. Reports tell us fraudulent charges soon follow,” she said.

Fake package delivery problems: This scam has been around for a while, but it is still working its magic. The texts usually pretend to be from the U.S. Postal Service, FedEx, or UPS, saying that there’s some sort of issue with a delivery. The trap the scammers want a person to step into is a link to a website that looks real but isn’t. If someone stops there and then, they should be ok, but if they do what the scammer asks – paying a small “redelivery fee” with their credit card – then, the scammer takes off with that credit card number and starts making purchases in the target’s name.

Phony job offers: The fourth most common text message ruse has a couple of variations. One could be a promise of easy money for mystery shopping at well-known stores like Whole Foods and Walmart. Another is an offer to make money driving around with your car wrapped in ads. A third twist targets people who post their resumes to employment websites like Indeed. “In most of these reports, scammers use checks that seem to 'clear' but turn out to be fake to trick people into sending them money,” Fletcher says.

Amazon security alerts: Similar to fake bank messages, there’s one going around pretending to be from Amazon, asking you to verify a big-ticket order you didn’t make. The trigger point here is getting the target to call the phone number listed in the text where they’ll encounter a fake Amazon rep who promises to “fix” your account and get a refund. At that point, the rep says a couple of zeros were accidentally added to the refund, so they need you to return that money to them – often by buying gift cards and giving the cards’ PIN numbers. 

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