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Parent text scams
© Elena Yakimova |
Security & privacy

Don’t reply to that text from ‘Mom’ before reading this first

If there’s a way to get in touch with people, scammers are on it. They’ll find a way to collect fresh victims through phone calls, social media, email, and even old-fashioned snail mail.

Even a text message can be dangerous. Thieves are now impersonating the IRS with tricky texts to steal your personal information and financial details. Tap or click here for our report, including tips on spotting and avoiding these scams.

Impersonating a government agency is one thing. But scammers are becoming shockingly personal by pretending to be people you care about. We’ll show you what to watch out for before answering a text from someone in need. It may not be who you think it is.

The parent trap

Do you label your parents as “Mom” and “Dad” in your phone’s contact list? It’s a common enough practice, and scammers know this. Here’s how they are using this knowledge to rip people off.

You get a text on your phone that appears to be from one of your parents. “Mom” or “Dad” is out shopping and forgot their credit card at home. Or their car broke down, and they need help paying for a tow truck. The point is they need help in the form of money.

Of course, you would do anything to help your parents. But is the person on the other end really one of the people who raised you?

The Better Business Bureau is warning of a scam involving spoofed caller ID. Crooks impersonate your parents to get money out of you. If you transfer money to a bank or digital wallet, consider it gone.

RELATED: Watch out for these scams surrounding the death of Queen Elizabeth II

Spot the warning signs

Before you whip out your wallet, take a breath and think. Have your parents ever reached out to you like this? Do they usually text you? Here are some ways to find out if the text is coming from your parents:

  • Have your parents ever asked for money out of the blue? If not, it might be a scam.
  • If you have regular text conversations with your parents, there should be a thread showing previous messages. A new text thread means it’s coming from someone contacting you for the first time.
  • Tap on the sender’s name to check the phone number.
  • Call your parents to confirm if they really sent the message.
  • Don’t be fooled by the personal information someone has on you. The sender may have some information, such as your and your parents’ names. This could have come from a data breach or social media. Don’t fall for it.

How to stay safe from texting scams

  • The first step is the easiest: If you suspect a scam, don’t reply. Just block the number and delete the message.
  • Safeguard your information: Never give out personal data if you don’t know the message’s sender or can’t verify their identity.
  • Sensational language: If there’s a sense of urgency or excitement (click here now!), ignore it.
  • Be wary of links: Pay close attention to the URLs in emails or text messages. Check for slight changes in the letters, any misspellings or suspicious characters.
  • Spelling and grammar mistakes: Poor use of language is a major red flag.
  • Avoid links and attachments: Don’t click on links or attachments you receive in unsolicited messages.
  • Report suspicious activity: If you’ve been the victim of a texting or similar scam, or you suspect you were targeted, report it to the BBB Scam Tracker.

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