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Five ways to spot an SMS scam and what to do about it

As COVID-19 continues to spread around the world, more jobs are being lost, and more people are looking for ways to make a quick buck. And unfortunately, this means there has been an increase in SMS fraudsters wanting to trick unsuspecting people into giving up their personal information.

To make sure you don’t fall victim to a scam, we’ve listed five things to look out for when receiving a potentially fraudulent SMS.

Winning a random prize

This is the oldest trick in the book. Whenever you receive an SMS telling you that you’ve won an arbitrary prize or a large sum of money, the chances are it’s a scam. In most cases, the scammer will request that you follow a few “simple” steps to claim the prize, which will involve handing over money or giving up your personal information to claim the prize. The best bet is to block or report the number.

Random family emergencies

This is another common scam that often sends your mind racing. For example, you might receive an SMS saying that your “close relative is in danger and they need money now”. In some cases, the scammer will even claim to be a relative sending the SMS from a different number, begging for immediate financial help. In these cases, we advise you to ignore or block the number. If you are genuinely concerned, investigate the matter by asking a few telling questions about the so-called “relative”.

Refund scams

Refund scams can be tricky to spot, because they will often claim to be from a very popular subscription or billing service like Amazon or Spotify. Typically, these SMSes will tell you that you’re owed a refund on a monthly subscription, and then prompt you to share direct deposit information so that the charge can be reversed. Once the scammer has secured a routing number, they can access your account. As a rule of thumb, never, ever share financial or personal details over SMS. If you are curious about the claim, visit the official Web site to make an enquiry about the SMS.

Reactivation scams

These types of scammers are usually trying to access your personal information or login details to a specific site. For example, the SMS might say that your e-mail account has been compromised and has had to be deactivated. You might then be asked to send through your password to reactivate the account. Here all you need to do is check the account in question and remember never to share your passwords with anyone.

Admin requests

Typically, these scams will try trick you in to completing a certain task or following a suspicious link. For example, you might receive an SMS saying there has been fraudulent activity on your online banking account. The scammer will prompt you to send through your username and password so they can investigate the issues. Remember to never give up your personal details via SMS and never click on a link in an SMS prompting you to enter your personal details.

Even though SMS scams may seem like an invasion of privacy, they will have no effect on you if you don’t respond to them. Instead of responding to fraudulent SMS messages, block and report any suspicious activity to your service provider.

Editorial contacts
Shereen Griebenow [email protected]