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Avoiding scam text messages
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Security & privacy

Wrong number? This scam starts with just one innocent text

There are plenty of stories of people accidentally sending flirtatious or aggressive text messages to their boss or colleague and hearing all about it the next day. Tap or click here to see what happens when you unsend a text message in iOS 16.

You might have even been on the receiving end of a wrong number text. But if you don’t handle it properly, you could be the victim of an elaborate scam.

Read on to see how cybercriminals use text messages to trick you out of money and personal information.

Here’s the backstory

People who receive a wrong number text message typically delete it. That’s what they should be doing.

But cybercriminals hope that you’ll reply. These scammers will send a text message to the intended victim but pretend it’s to the wrong number. If you respond to the message, the scammer will try a few tricks.

There are a couple of different ways these scams play out. In one scenario, you’ll receive a text from an unknown sender claiming to have an excellent opportunity for an investment. The message was supposedly meant for a friend, but they mistakenly sent it to your phone number.

If you reply, the sender will spark a conversation and offer you the chance to get in on the investment. If you take the bait many times, the scoundrel sends a link to a malicious investment app that, if you click, will infect your device with malware.

Or they ask for personal and banking information for the investment opportunity. Handing this information over lets them steal your identity, drain your bank account, or both.

Another popular wrong-number text scam plays on your heartstrings. You’ll receive a text from the wrong number, and if you reply, the sender starts to smooth talk you. It quickly turns into a romance scam. The end goal is the same as the previous example. They want to trick you into handing over personal data or money.

What you can do about it

There are a few ways to stay safe. But the worst thing you can do is respond to a text or email from an unsolicited sender. Even if you have an urge to give the sender a piece of your mind, don’t do it.

If you respond, you’re letting the thief know that your phone number is active and it will lead to more spam texts. Your best response to spam texts is to delete the message and block the number.

Here are some ways to keep your information safe:

  • If you get a text from an unknown number, ignore it. Responding could put you on a list, and you’ll receive more scam texts or calls.
  • Don’t click on links or attachments you receive in unsolicited texts or emails.
  • Block phone numbers that send suspicious messages, especially if they contain links.
  • Always have a trusted antivirus program updated and running on all your devices. This will help keep malicious programs from infecting your gadget. We recommend our sponsor, TotalAV. Right now, get an annual plan with TotalAV for only $19 at ProtectWithKim.com. That’s over 85% off the regular price!
  • If you get a suspicious text or fall victim to a scam, report it at bbb.org/scamtracker.

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