The 6 Top Text Scams of 2020 (and How to Avoid Them)

Learn the signs of suspicious SMS messages

It's possible to be a victim to spam text messages, and scam attempts (also known as smishing). It's important to be aware of some of the most significant text scams out there, and how to spot them. Learn what the top text message scams are, what a phishing text message is, and why you're receiving spam text messages. 

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iCloud Scam

A person holding a smartphone replying to a text message

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An Apple ID is a valuable thing given it provides hackers and scammers access to your bank details, location, iCloud backup, and the many purchases you've previously made. The iCloud text messaging scam occurs when a criminal pretends to be Apple and encourages you to send your details via social engineering and manipulation. 

The key here is to remember that responsible companies will never ask you to reply to a message with your personal details, or tell you to click a suspicious looking link.

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Bank Smishing Attempts

Sample bank scam text



This scam involves receiving a text message, supposedly from your bank, stating there's a problem with your account, such as suspicious activity or an unusual payment being made. 

Often, you're asked to click a link or call a dedicated number in a bid to sort out the problem. If you click the link, you're asked to enter your bank login information to confirm it's you, while phoning the number involves handing it over to do similar. 

In both cases, you should never hand over the information. If you're genuinely concerned your bank is getting in touch with you, contact them through an independently sourced phone number (such as the one on the back of your bank card) and ask them if they've been in touch.

This kind of scam also works with services such as PayPal, Netflix, or even governmental organizations. 

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Two-Factor Authentication Scams

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Many sites and user accounts enable you to set up two-factor authentication, so you need to have an SMS sent to you to log into an account. This might sound foolproof if you have your phone on hand at all times, but scammers can manufacture a way in which they can access your account. 

What happens is they try to log into your account, then moments before you receive a legitimate verification code, the scammer texts you pretending they're from the relevant company and there's been a suspicious sign-in attempt to your account. It then requests you send the verification code to 'lock your account temporarily.' You hand over the legitimate code and they gain access to your account. 

No legitimate company will text you asking you to send them the verification code. Don't ever send anyone a verification code or enter it onto an unverified site. Very few companies will SMS you out of the blue either.

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Premium and Other Text Messaging Scams

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Various scam texts can simply state that 'x account' has been compromised and to text back to reactivate it. This may sound harmless, but it rarely is. For one thing, it proves your phone number is active, which means it can then be easily used for more nefarious schemes. For another, you may be charged for sending and receiving premium text messages. 

Get a strange message? Ignore it. It's the safest option. Alternatively, get directly in touch with the company that supposedly sent it, to confirm if they actually did.

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Text Messages With Links or Attachments

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Much like if you get an email from an unknown source and there's a link or attachment included, you should never click or open them. They are almost always viruses or Trojans. If it looks a little strange or unusual, don't take the risk.

Often, these text messages suggest you've won a prize and to click the link to receive it. Like with email scams, don't click the link.

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Begging/Manipulative SMS Messages

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Ever received a random message suggesting you should text back because it's urgent, but you can't figure out who the person is and you don't know why they haven't just called you? It's a form of manipulation encouraging you to reply to what turns out to be an expensive premium rate number.

Ignore the message. If it doesn't make any sense, there's a good reason for it. If someone really did urgently need you, they'd call.

Realized you're a victim to one of these SMS frauds? Here are some important steps on what to do next and how best to avoid being a victim in future.