Arizona and the nation have seen an increase in complaints related to texting scams, according to the Arizona Attorney General’s Office.
“Fraudsters are relentless,” Attorney General Mark Brnovich said in a statement. “Text messaging schemes are now on the rise, and people are losing their money.”
The Federal Trade Commission recorded more than 378,000 complaints about text scams in 2021, up by more than 45,000 complaints from the prior year, according to the Attorney General’s Office.
Consumers lost at least $131 million to text scammers last year, the statement said. The median loss was $900 per person.
What does a text message scam look like?
It’s easy to make a texting scam seem legitimate, said Teresa Murray, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group’s consumer watchdog.
“The scammers will do anything to get a response,” Murray said.
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Text messaging scams can come in a variety of packages, but they all have the same goal: to get the recipient to respond with sensitive information. Text scam examples include:
Gift or prize offers: Swindlers impersonate well-known companies in a text that includes a link to a survey. They offer a gift card or cash upon survey completion.
Delivery deception: A text message asking for credit card confirmation will appear to be sent from a delivery service and ask recipients to pay for package delivery.
Financial services: Scammers pretend to be a bank and urge people to verify their account username, password or PIN number.
Government agencies: The sender of a text masquerades as the IRS or other government agency to obtain a Social Security number.
Impersonators: Scammers may try to engage in conversation by pretending to be an acquaintance. These might start with friendly phrases like, “How are you?” or “Call me back when you can.”
How to protect yourself from texting scams
Fraudulent texts often contain spelling errors or demand immediate action from recipients, according to the Attorney General’s Office.
Consumers can avoid falling prey to scams by not clicking on links in unsolicited text messages and blocking the associated phone number.
Texts from unknown numbers should be ignored, even if the message says to reply “stop” to prevent future messages.
“Scammers can’t rip you off if you don’t engage with them,” Murray said.
It can also be helpful to read suspicious text messages to a friend or family member, she said.
“When people say the text message out loud, they often realize that it’s not legit,” she said.
How to report scams
Texting scams can also be reported to wireless service providers by forwarding suspicious texts to 7726, which corresponds with “SPAM,” Murray said.
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