A text might pop up on your phone from an unknown number and attempt to start up a conversation. Don’t bite. It’s the beginning of a new scam whose end goal is to steal your identity.
The message reads something like this:
Hi – I have your number in my cellphone contacts but I don’t have your name attached to it. I think it’s possible you’re an old friend of mine. Can you send me your name so I’ll know for sure?
What can be the harm? Plenty. The scammer picked an area code and seven digits. Someone undoubtedly has that number, they think, but they don’t know who.
If you tell them your name they now have a name and working phone number. With that information, security experts say they can piece together other information, such as your email address, physical address, and other information that could be used to build a synthetic identity or steal your real one.
Security experts recommend ignoring messages like this but if you think it might be genuine, there are several things you can do to protect yourself. You could respond with a message saying “I’m cautious about responding to unknown numbers. Can you tell me who you are?”
It might seem a bit awkward but it shouldn’t be. In this day and age, nearly everyone is aware of the proliferating number of scams and a genuine questioner would probably understand, and appreciate your caution.
Watch out for a change in tactics
A scammer, on the other hand, will most likely ignore your response and move on to the next potential victim. However, they might respond and say something like “I’m with the American Red Cross,” or some other large organization that might be familiar.
But note that the scammer has suddenly flipped the script. They no longer think you are an “old friend” but someone who has an association with the organization. At that point, it is best to ignore any additional messages.
These messages can also include links that, if clicked will download malware onto your device. Any messages from unknown numbers, especially if they contain a link, should be quickly deleted.
You can expect to get more scam texts in the future. RoboKiller recently reports that these texts have surged after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) forced cellular carriers to crack down on robocalls.
The Federal Trade Commission recently warned Americans about a whole host of text scams that are targeting consumers.