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Stranger Texts: Don’t Answer Unsolicited Messages
Have you ever received an unsolicited text message on your phone from a stranger who seems to have mistaken you for someone else? It might be something innocuous, such as, “Sorry I couldn’t make it to the event!” Or it could be something like, “Hi Mike, are we still on for 11 am tomorrow?”, even though your name isn’t Mike, and you have no meetings scheduled the next day. While it may seem harmless, and even polite, to respond to the sender, don’t do it. These messages are likely scams.
Con artists are using “wrong number” or “robo-texting” scams to try to initiate contact and establish rapport with unsuspecting victims.
How Messaging Scams Work
Con artists send out hundreds or thousands of attention-grabbing but innocent-looking texts to unwitting recipients they’ve never met. They often get your information from public sources, auto-generators, and the Dark Web. The scammers’ messages are often vague, intended to elicit a response. If you respond at all (perhaps with “wrong number, sorry”) the scammer will attempt to draw you into conversation. Once the scammer has established a relationship, they will try to convince you to give them money or invest in their cryptocurrency or other investment. They may encourage you to start messaging them on an app that can better obscure their identity, and then ask you to transfer funds to unregulated investing or cryptocurrency trading apps. Some scammers may try to use tactics like acting romantic to help convince unsuspecting victims to transfer funds, even promising to meet in person; though, the meeting will always be postponed for some reason.
For more information about romance scams see this NASAA Alert
These simple tactics can be very effective once a relationship is established. In 2022, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) noted in a warning about cyber criminals and cryptocurrency that over a nine-month period beginning in October 2021, the agency received complaints involving 244 victims reporting losses of over $42 million to these types of scams.
Red Flags of a Wrong Number Text/Message Scam
If you get a message from an unknown sender via text or through a messaging application, be on the lookout for the following red flags:
- Misleading or incomplete information
- Misspellings or grammatical errors (scammers use this to avoid blocking/filtering tools)
- 10-digit or longer phone numbers
- Mysterious links
- Requests to respond
- Any mention of investment opportunities, especially those involving cryptocurrency
- The best way to protect yourself is to IGNORE the message. Do not respond to any suspicious message, even if it requests that you “text STOP” to end any further messages.
- Do not click on any links included in the
- Never share sensitive personal or financial information by text
- File a complaint with the FCC or the Canadian Anti-Fraud
- Forward unwanted texts to SPAM (7726). This will help your wireless provider identify and prevent further texts from fraudulent numbers.
- Delete all suspicious
- Stay current on all updates for your smart device operating system (OS) and security
- Consider installing anti-malware
- Review companies’ policies regarding opting out of text alerts and selling/sharing your
- Review text blocking tools in your mobile phone settings, available third-party apps, and your mobile phone carrier’s offering.
The Bottom Line
Remember, anyone offering or selling securities or offering investment advice must be registered with the appropriate securities regulator. If a stranger sends you a text message and tries to convince you to invest with them or offers to trade money for you in any kind of security or cryptocurrency, contact your state or provincial securities regulator. These agencies can provide information about whether the person is registered to buy or sell securities or offer investment advice, and whether they have any regulatory actions or other disciplinary events in their past. Don’t let a stranger turn your finances upside down!
Posted: November 2022