Have you received any weird text messages lately?
Don’t worry, you’re not alone and you probably don’t have an out-of-body experience. The latest trend in spam is that mobile phone users get texts from what appears to be their own phone number.
The messages usually state that they are from the user’s wireless carrier, link to the wireless bill, and include a link to a “free gift”. Spoiler warning: link leads to potentially malicious websites, according to Reddit and Twitter.
All of this is potentially very confusing. Here’s what you need to know about these spam texts and what you can do with them:
Why do I get these texts?
“As part of a recent fraud scheme, bad actors sent text messages to some Verizon customers who seem to come from their own customer numbers,” said Verizon spokesman Rich Young. “Since the disclosure of the scheme, our company has made significant efforts to limit ongoing activities.”
Young noted the recent rise in spam text messages from all wireless carriers and said Verizon was “actively working with other industry and US law enforcement to investigate and stop these scammers and their illegal activities.”
Robokiller, a maker of a mobile app to block spam calls and text messages, said in the last week, as of Thursday, it had tracked more than 5,000 cases of spam messages with the same number.
According to Robokiller, typical versions of spam texts have messages that say, “Free message: your bill has been paid for March,” as well as a questionable link claiming to offer a free gift. In other cases, the spam message contains a link claiming to transfer the recipient to a Verizon poll, CNET reports.
The Verge writer noted that when he clicked on a link in one of the messages, the writer went to the website of the First Russian Channel, a television network run by the Russian government. “We have no signs of Russian involvement in the spam,” Young said.
A spokesman for AT&T told CNBC Make It: “We are watching this situation closely and have not seen anything like it in our network.” A T-Mobile spokesman did not immediately respond to CNBC’s Make It request for comment.
What about other types of spam texts?
The recent wave of spam texts with the same number comes amid an increase in the total number of spam texts received by U.S. wireless customers in recent years.
Last year, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) warned that spam texts are growing during the Covid-19 pandemic, and scammers are more likely to prey on desperate Americans suffering from health or financial difficulties. Robokiller said that in 2021, Americans received a total of 87.8 billion spam messages, which is 58% more than the previous year.
Spam texts are often referred to as SMS phishing, or “smish” attacks, when fraudsters try to trick wireless users into sharing personal information or clicking on links with malware. In some cases, spammers trick your phone’s caller ID into making it look like text or a call came from a local or government number called a “fake.”
In the case of spam texts with the same amount, it seems that “bad actors” can even cheat the recipients ’own numbers – adding another layer to the process.
What can I do about it?
This is according to security experts you should always be wary of answering phone calls or text messages from unknown or unknown numbers.
The FCC adds that you “should never share your personal or financial information by email, text message, or telephone.” Agency also recommends not clicking on the links or attachments you receive in any text message, and calling your friend who sends you the text to the link before clicking to make sure they have not been hacked.
Verizon offers similar tips to combat potential phishing attacks with suspicious texts. The company says that suspicious messages should not be answered. Instead, Verizon advises customers to forward spam texts, especially those that claim to be from Verizon, to SPAM (7726).
You can also report potential spam texts and emails to government and law enforcement agencies, including by filling out the Federal Commerce Commission’s online fraud complaint form and the Federal Bureau of Complaints Center for Internet Crimes.
If you click on a malicious link, experts say it is best not to enter any information and disconnect the device from the Internet as soon as possible. Then go to the device settings, check if you download the downloaded programs, and uninstall them.
You can also use an antivirus application to check your device for malware and change the passwords of any accounts that you think may have been hacked. If you believe that your personal or financial information could have been compromised, you can also freeze your credit for free to avoid potential identity theft.
Register now: Use our weekly newsletter to be smarter about your money and career
If your passwords are less than 8 characters, change them immediately, a new study says
These are the 20 most common passwords leaked to the Dark Web – make sure none of them are yours