Have you been getting strange text messages lately – from yourself?
Do not worry, you are not alone and you probably do not have an experience out of the body. The latest trend in spam text messaging involves mobile phone users receiving texts from what appears to be their own phone number.
The messages typically claim to be from the user’s wireless provider, referring to the recipient’s wireless bill and including a link to a “free gift”. Spoiler alert: The link leads to potentially malicious websites instead, according to users on Reddit and Twitter.
The whole thing is potentially very confusing. Here’s what you need to know about these spam texts and what you can do about them:
Why do I get these texts?
“As part of a recent scam scheme, bad actors have sent text messages to some Verizon customers that appear to come from customers’ own numbers,” said Verizon spokesman Rich Young. “Since we unveiled the scheme, our company has made significant efforts to limit its current activity.”
Young noted a recent rise in spam text messaging across all wireless providers, saying that Verizon “is actively working with others in our industry and with U.S. law enforcement as part of a study aimed at identifying and stopping these scammers and their illegal acts. ”
Robokiller, a company that makes a mobile app to block spam calls and text messages, said it had tracked more than 5,000 incidents of the same number of spam text messages over the past week from Thursday.
According to Robokiller, typical versions of the spam texts contain messages that say, “Free message: Your bill was paid for March,” along with a questionable link claiming to offer a free gift. In other cases, the spam message includes a link claiming to take the recipient to a Verizon survey, according to CNET.
A writer for The Verge noted that by clicking on the link in a particular message, the writer led to the website of Channel One Russia, a television network run by the Russian government. “We have no indication of any Russian involvement” in the spam texts, Young said.
A spokesman for AT&T told CNBC Make It: “We are monitoring this situation closely and have not seen anything like it on our network.” A spokesman for T-Mobile did not immediately respond to CNBC Make Its request for comment.
What about other forms of spam texts?
The latest wave of the same number of spam texts comes amid an increase in the total number of spam texts received by US wireless customers in recent years.
Last year, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) warned that spam texts have increased during the Covid-19 pandemic, where scammers are more likely to prey on desperate Americans suffering from health or financial hardship. Robokiller said Americans received a total of 87.8 billion spam text messages in 2021, an increase of 58% from the previous year.
Spam texts are often referred to as SMS phishing or “smishing” attacks, in which scammers try to trick wireless users into sharing personal information or clicking on malware-ready links. In some cases, spammers cheat on your phone’s caller ID to make it appear as if an SMS or call is coming from a local or government-associated number, a practice called “spoofing”.
In the case of the same number of spam texts, it seems that “bad actors” are even capable of falsifying the recipients’ own numbers – which adds another layer to the process.
What can I do about it?
It suggests security experts you should always be on the lookout for answering phone calls or text messages from unidentified or unknown numbers.
The FCC adds that you “should never share your personal or financial information via email, text messages or over the phone.” The Agency also discourages clicking on links or attachments you receive in a text message and calling your friend who sends you a link before you click to make sure they have not been hacked.
Verizon offers similar advice for dealing with potential phishing attacks involving suspicious texts. The company says you should not respond to suspicious messages at all. Instead, Verizon advises customers to forward spam texts, especially those claiming to be from Verizon, to SPAM (7726).
You can also report potential spam texts and emails to government agencies and law enforcement, including filling out the Federal Trade Commission’s online fraud complaint form and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.
If you click on a malicious link, experts say that your best bet is to avoid entering information and disconnect your device from the Internet as soon as possible. Then go into your device’s settings, look for apps you can not remember to download, and delete them.
You can also use an antivirus app to scan your device for malware and change the passwords of any accounts that you think may have been compromised. If you believe any of your personal or financial information may have been compromised, you can also freeze your credit for free to avoid potential identity theft.
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