Most of us get tons of emails daily. It can be overwhelming to stare at an inox with hundreds of unopened messages. Tap or click here for simple solutions to get a handle on your inbox.
Text messages are another story. You might be part of a group chat with family members who ping you all hours of the day and night. Then there are random texts that come from people you don’t know. That’s where you need to be careful. It could be part of an elaborate scheme to rip you off.
In fact, people all over the U.S. have been reporting receiving strange one-word texts lately. Some just say, “hi.” We’ve got details on this odd phenomenon and how to handle these types of texts.
Here’s the backstory
A popular scamming technique is to cold-call potential victims with incredible offers, pretending to be a government agent or trying to verify your information for a supposed delivery. Other times, scammers turn to email to extract data.
But a growing trend is to send a one-word text message to initiate a conversation. Scammers hope that they can convince you to send them money or supply your personal information once they have your attention.
This technique is called smishing. Unfortunately, many people fall for it, especially around the holidays. They think the message could be coming from someone they knew years ago and aren’t on their list of contacts. That’s what the thieves are banking on.
If you reply to the message, the scammer knows your phone number is active and they could start sending more spam messages. Or they could engage in conversation, hoping to trick you into giving them sensitive information or even sending money.
There is no telling in which direction the text will go, but here are some of the most common approaches once someone replies.
In this scam, the criminal initiates a conversation that can start with a simple “hi.” Sometimes they pretend that a friendly message was sent to the wrong person. Hoping to make a connection, the scammer can drag it out over several days, eventually ending in asking for money.
Scammers know that millions of people order things online, so the chances are good that their intended victim is waiting on a package.
In this scam, the criminal will claim to be from a delivery company and they need you to verify your details. Some variations require you to pay a small fee for rerouting the package to the correct address or to supply sensitive data such as your Social Security number.
Bank account issues
Impersonating a company or agency is another trick thieves use. In some cases, the crooks pretend to be from your bank. They claim that your account is in the process of being closed, and if you want to keep it open, you must give them your details. This usually includes your PIN, Social Security number or email address.
How to avoid falling victim to smishing
The best thing that you can do with a text message from an unknown sender is to delete it ASAP. Never interact with an unknown phone number. It can lead to so many problems that you don’t want to deal with.
If the person sending the message actually knows you, they will most likely call you at some point. If reaching you is important, they can then leave a voicemail letting you know what’s going on.
Here are more suggestions on how to handle strange texts:
- Never click on a link in a text message if you don’t know the sender. If you have business with a company or government agency, ensure you visit the official website by navigating to the page in your browser instead of following a link.
- When available, enable two-factor authentication. This is an extra step to protect your online accounts.
- Some smishing scams use well-known retailers as a lure. If you didn’t buy anything from them, there is no reason why you should get a text. Ignore it and report the number as spam.
- Always have a trusted antivirus program updated and running on all your devices. We recommend our sponsor, TotalAV. Get an annual plan with TotalAV for only $19 at ProtectWithKim.com. That’s over 85% off the regular price!