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Who’s Texting You?
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Jamara (She/Her)
Financial Educator
Posted December 14, 2021
Do you know who is texting you? Fraud comes in many forms, and one of those forms now include emojis. The official term for this is smishing. Smishing is when a scammer aims to steal personal information through text message. Scammers will impersonate trusted sources to manipulate someone into giving away passwords, account information, or even attempt to install viruses on your phone. If a scammer is convincing enough, personal information can be easily stolen.

According to the Michigan Attorney General Consumer Alert, a smartphone user is three-times more likely to become a victim of this kind of fraud compared to email scams. You can protect your personal information from being stolen by learning how to recognize a suspicious text message and protecting your information.  
Number sharing
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It is critical to know when your phone number is being shared and for what. Believe it or not, the apps we download on our phone could be sharing information. Do you ever really read through the terms and conditions that some of your applications may have? Some of these conditions may include sharing certain information provided by their users. Skimming through the terms and conditions could help to know when and how your information is being used. Whenever signing up for anything that requires providing your phone number, you will want to check and make sure that your number will not be shared with outside companies. This is the first line of defense from being scammed.
Warning
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A way to grab someone’s attention quickly is by giving them a warning that something may be wrong. Scammers will often alert you of a false problem in hopes of an emotional response. Common false alerts include financial scares. Someone committing fraud knows that people want to protect their financial information.

In this situation, the scammer may impersonate your financial institution. The victim may receive a text message that their bank account has been compromised. Usually the message will ask for a response to verify transactions by providing account or personal identifying information. This is a red flag! In this scenario, you will want to avoid clicking any links that may be provided in the text. You will also want to call your financial institution to verify that the message you received is indeed valid.

Keep in mind that your financial institution will most likely never reach out to you asking for sensitive information through text message. There are fraud prevention methods that include text message alerts; however, these alerts are usually short messages asking for verification of a transaction and may ask you to call your financial institution to further investigate. 

When an unknown number messages you asking for payment of any kind, do not respond without further looking into the company. Most collections agencies will not try to collect a debt through text message. IRS scams are another way scammers will target a potential victim. The IRS will never send you a personal text message to pay obligations. Make sure when making online payments to any agencies or companies, you are going directly to their official website.
 
You’ve won
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Who doesn’t want to be a winner? Learning that you may have won something can be exciting. Fraudsters know this and will often use the “You’ve Won” hoax. When receiving this kind of message, think before replying. Have you recently entered a contest? Have you applied for any programs that offer an incentive? Do you recognize the company that is texting you?

If so, have you interacted with this company before? If these answers are no, then this is most likely a fraudulent text message. A red flag when receiving a fake “Congratulations you have won!” text is the request for further personal information. If this were something that you had previously signed up for, then your personal information would have most likely been included in your submission or application.  
Protect your messages
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You can protect yourself from unwanted messages by blocking spam callers. If there isn’t an option in your cell phone settings to do this, call your cell service provider. Your provider may have a way to help you stop getting unwanted messages. Area codes can be deceiving as well. There are apps that allow scammers to change the numbers they are messaging you from. Seeing an area code that matches your own does not always mean it is legit. Avoid clicking on any type of links that are unfamiliar to you. A lot of these links are a way to steal information or allow software to install on your phone. Text scammers pretend to be lots of different businesses, programs, or organizations. If you ever question whether a text is real or fake, do not respond through text.  Instead, call your trusted organization/business directly. Be safe and know who is texting you.
Sources:
https://www.michigan.gov/ag/0,4534,7-359-81903_20942-472313--,00.html
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