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Safety & security

What to do when you get a text with a verification code you didn’t request

Our content marketing queen Allie gets texts with her Uber sign-in code now and then. The problem? She’s not trying to get into her Uber account; someone else is.

She ignores them because she’s well-versed in smishing, phishing and other criminal schemes. Tap or click here for a crash course in smishing scams. But of course, not all texts with verification codes are fraudulent. 

Sometimes you might get a verification code for a good reason. The problem is that it’s hard to distinguish between scams and important texts. That’s why we’ve put together this guide that will help you learn what to do when you get a random text with a verification code.

Always be cautious

In general, take it as a sign to be more vigilant. An unrequested verification code is a giant neon sign saying, “Someone is trying to sign in to your account!” That means your username and password could be compromised.

Thus, it’s time to log into your account and change your password. Make sure you’re coming up with something strong and unique. Tap or click here to create easy-to-remember yet super-tough passwords.

This could also signify that your account details were leaked in a data breach. These aren’t nearly as rare as they should be. Criminals constantly launch coordinated attacks on organizations that have your private details, from businesses to hospitals.

So it’s a good idea to check cybersecurity databases now and then. They’re super easy to use: Just enter your email address or phone number, and you’ll see if your private details are public property. Tap or click here for one free database that lets you see if your data is floating around the web.

Are the alerts coming from your bank? Watch out

Some accounts are much more critical than others, of course. A verification code for your Netflix account isn’t as dangerous as one from your bank. If you’re getting an alert from your bank, call it up and check to see if anyone has accessed your account.

It’s best to nip any potential financial issues in the bud ASAP. Otherwise, you could deal with a drained bank account, a ruined credit score and a stolen identity. Tap or click here for three surefire signs someone stole your identity.

Take the extra time to reach out to your bank. Don’t reply to the text directly. Instead, look up the website or location and call the official number. 

You may not need to take this extra step for most texts you get, though. This is just the case for banks since they have highly-sensitive information. For most accounts, you can just ignore the text once you’re sure your account is protected.

If you’re getting a verification code from an account that records logins or devices, like streaming services that show all connected devices, it’s worth checking that nothing strange is happening in your account.

If you aren’t careful, you might even lose your account. Tap or click here to avoid one common mistake that will lock you out of your own Netflix account.

A few things to keep in mind

Remember, if you get a verification code you didn’t request, that means your account could be in danger. We recommend changing your password to something more robust. 

However, maybe your account is fine. Maybe your username and password are still secure, but a cybercriminal is trying to rattle you. It’s a common tactic in smishing or text messaging scams.

Bad guys will send you texts with verification codes or suspicious links, trying to make you click them. The websites you’re taken to infect your device with malware. Tap or click here for six phony text messages to watch out for.

You’ll rarely get random text messages or emails with links you didn’t ask for. That’s why you should be cautious. Instead of clicking on the link, reach out to the official organization and see if the messages were legitimate. 

It’s an extra step, but the effort is well worth it. If you don’t follow proper precautions, you could lose a ton of money. AARP says cons that started with text messages stole $86 million from Americans in 2020. 

Criminals aren’t the only cause

If you get a recovery code you weren’t expecting, that could mean someone made an account with your email. Some people have no scruples, so they’ll use your contact information to sign up for new accounts. 

Scroll through Twitter and you might stumble upon a few people grumbling about TikTok confirmation codes. Even though they never signed up (or don’t recall making an account), they get codes like this: 

This could very well be a phishing scam. It could also be something way less nefarious. Sometimes, kids who aren’t given a proper digital education think it’s okay to use random numbers or emails when creating accounts. These random email addresses or numbers could be your phone number or email address.

Few children understand two-factor authentication. When they try to sign in to their new account, the site’s confirmation code goes straight to you. 

If you keep getting verification codes for accounts you never created, go to the site, change the password and shut the account down. Otherwise, you may have to deal with endless notifications.

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