Spammers bombard Americans with 12 billion robotexts every month!: Internet Scambusters #1,031
Robotexts - unsolicited SMS cellphone texts - are replacing emails as spammers' top choice for harassing consumers.
Americans receive more than 400 million of these messages every day, prompting the government to consider new blocking rules for phone service providers.
We'll give you the details and tips on how to protect yourself - along with a new warning about abortion pill scams - in this week's issue.
Let's get started…
10 Ways To Protect Yourself From Robotext Spam
Remember when your email inbox was flooded with spam? Well, it probably still is but you're so used to it, you barely notice. But now spammers and scammers have stepped up their game, bombarding us with spam SMS text messages, or "robotexts" as they're being called.
Latest statistics show that Americans now get around 12 billion robotexts a month - around 400 million a day - a 10-fold increase on last year.
The surge has prompted the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to consider taking similar action to its recent clampdown on robocalls, which has been fairly successful.
A lot of spam emails are automatically filtered out by software or simply ignored when they arrive.
(It's interesting to note that only a tiny fraction of them are actually scams. Mostly, spammers are trawling for names of people interested in particular products, which they then sell on to the actual sellers or to people who compile marketing lists. Of course, that's still unwelcome and the "don't click anywhere, even on unsubscribe" rule still applies.)
Spam texts are a different story. They tend to be more malicious, stealing, phishing for personal information (smishing) or trying to get malware onto your mobile device. They may try to frighten you into clicking or calling by claiming you didn't pay a bill or a fine, notifying you of a problem with a package delivery, or a problem with a bank or shopping account.
Some of the other signs to watch for include:
- Phone numbers you don't recognize or numbers longer than 10 digits
- Vague information that's supposed to make you want to know more
- Questions that seem to come from someone you don't know
- Misspellings that are intended to avoid blocking software
10 Key Actions to Protect Yourself
Here's what the FCC says you can do to protect yourself and help others from the robotext onslaught:
- Don't reply to suspicious texts; don't even send a "STOP" response if you're invited to do so.
- Don't click on links or provide information about yourself.
- File a complaint to the FCC and/or forward the text to SPAM (7726).
- Delete all suspicious texts.
- Consider installing an anti-malware app, and keep all device security software and operating systems up to date.
- Review text-blocking settings from your phone service provider and on the device itself. Both iOS (Apple) and Android phones have spam protection options built in.
- When you visit websites that legitimately require your name and phone number, check their privacy policies regarding text and info-sharing opt-outs.
- If someone you know sends a text with a suspicious link that seems out of character, call them to make sure they weren't hacked.
- If you get an unexpected text from a business you deal with, look up and visit their legitimate website and contact them from there.
- Remember that government departments (and many other organizations) don't initiate contact via texts.
These days, more and more of us are using mobile devices instead of desktop computers for communicating and shopping, so we can expect the flood of robotexts to increase further in the future.
The Commission says it is urgently looking at ways of requiring service providers to block illegal robotexts and possibly the introduction of some kind of system similar to phone caller ID authentication.
"The FCC prohibits autodialed text messages from being sent to your mobile phone unless you previously gave consent to receive the message or the message is sent for emergency purposes," it says.
"The FCC has repeatedly made clear that phone companies can block suspicious text messaging as a default policy."
Abortion Pill Scams
It's not our role to comment or take sides in the ongoing debate about abortions. But it is our duty to pass on related scam warnings.
We have two and they're both about pills.
First, medical information site WebMD warns of fake clinics and online pharmacies offering abortion medications that may be expired, counterfeit, or even non-existent. Online searches for this type of pill have more than doubled in recent weeks. Often, the illegal sites offer products without prescription -- a clear signal that it's not legit. Read the WebMD report here: More Illegal Sites Running Online Abortion Pill.
Other crooks have jumped on the bandwagon by claiming they can supply pills that reverse an abortion. While there are experimental procedures for reversal, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) says reversal is not supported by science. See Facts Are Important: Medication Abortion "Reversal" Is Not Supported by Science. Others may disagree, but either way, anyone offering this medication online without a prescription is breaking the law.
If these issues are relevant to you or someone you know, the first port of call is always to speak to an appropriate healthcare professional.
This Week's Scam Alerts
Record-breaking: Levels of fraud and related scams reported to the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) reached a record level during 2021 says a new report on ID theft trends. For example, social media account hijacking was up more than 1,000% on the previous year. Download the full report here: ITRC Trends in Identity Report. Note: You have to fill in a form first, requiring personal details including your name and email address.
DoorDash dilemma: Food delivery service DoorDash says one of its third-party vendors was compromised in a clever phishing attack, resulting in some customer information being exposed, including some names, phone numbers, and partial card information. Customers are advised to change their account passwords.
That's it for today -- we hope you enjoy your week!