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Spotting Suspicious Text Messages

Posted on Wednesday, August 3, 2022
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by AMAC, D.J. Wilson
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Text messages

Cell phones deliver many conveniences. Not only do they allow us to make and receive calls quickly, but they also enable us to perform other amazing tasks such as messaging, taking & storing photos, accessing emails & word processing, scheduling reminders & calendar dates, ordering items, and so forth. Cell phones are undoubtedly a modern convenience that improves our lives. But they also put communication at our fingertips –increasing the user’s risk of being scammed. 84-year-old Pete received an SMS (text message) with a link threatening that his Amazon account would be suspended if he did not verify his identity within two days. There was a link attached. Fortunately, Pete recognized the message was not from Amazon. He knew it was a scam and he promptly reported and deleted the message.

While it’s amazing that we can so easily connect with family and friends via our phones, the use of cellphones renders folks vulnerable to contact from scammers. Unscrupulous people often pretend to represent a popular company, as in the example above. Five specific things stand out regarding the message Pete received. One, there is no valid reason why Pete would ever need to prove his identity to a company out of the blue. Note that companies do not typically reach out their customers to ask for identifying information or to confirm identities. These are red flags of a scam. Second, the nature of the email involves a consequence – in this case, the suspension of Pete’s account. Messages from legitimate companies do not include “threats” to suspend or close accounts. Third, while the message source did contain the word Amazon, the rest of the address was gibberish, indicating that the message came from an illegitimate source and not from that actual company. Fourth, the message was accompanied by misspellings or unusual language, which was another indication of a scam. Fifth, the instructions were for him to click on a suspicious link. Pete understood that scammers often masquerade as legitimate companies to trick their targets. He also knew that clicking on a phishing link would redirect him to a malicious website with the potential to install malware onto his device or steal information.

Pete knows several people who were victims of scams in the past. He witnessed the headaches his friends endured moving forward to protect their accounts and identities. Thus, he is extremely careful when it comes to answering communications on his cellphone. In one case, a friend was asked to reset delivery preferences. This directed his friend to a malicious site that tricked him into believing he won a prize. His friend then became a victim by entering credit card information to gain the “prize.”

Noting how easy it is to fall victim of a scam, Pete uses the experiences of his friends as lessons to spot, identify, and stop potential scams. Regarding the above Amazon scam, Pete properly handled the situation by reporting the incident to the company, by not responding the message, and by deleting it promptly without clicking on any links or replying. Pete explains, never reply STOP or HELP to a questionable message as it serves to tell the sender that the number is active. Also, never call back numbers they provide. In today’s day and age of abundant scams, it’s best to follow Pete’s example and simply delete rather than respond to suspicious text messages.

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