Our phones are inundated with texts every single day—whether it's a family member checking in, a friend forwarding a funny video, or a politician asking for our vote. We might sometimes get annoyed at the sheer volume of messages piling up in our inbox, but we don't often give much thought to the texts we're receiving. As it turns out, you should be paying close attention to where your messages are coming from. Certain texts, in fact, require you to take immediate action. Read on to find out which numbers you should be blocking on your phone.
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Scammers are now more likely to target people through texts than calls.
Scammers used to mainly target people using automated messages through robocalls. But over the years, con artists have learned to evolve their methods along with technological advancements. Robokiller, an app designed to combat these types of scams, released its 2022 Mid-Year Phone Scam Report on Sept. 8, detailing a major growing concern: scam texts. According to the report, the shift from calls to texts is largely a response to a newly implemented initiative from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
In June 2021, the FCC introduced its Secure Telephone Identity Revisited (STIR) and Signature-based Handling of Asserted Information Using toKENs (SHAKEN) standards. Known as the STIR/SHAKEN framework, this initiative allows for more accurate authentication and verification of caller ID information. "This technology is critical to protecting Americans from scams using spoofed robocalls because it erodes the ability of callers to illegally spoof a caller ID, which scammers use to trick Americans into answering their phones when they shouldn't," the FCC explained.
Since June 30, 2022, all phone carriers have been required to implement this initiative or an equivalent Robocall Mitigation Plan (RMP) to combat spam calls that utilize caller ID spoofing, according to Robokiller. This has pushed scammers to "redirect their focus and zero in" on targeting Americans through scam text messages, which is a "tactic that faces fewer roadblocks and has a better engagement rate," Robokiller explains.
Americans have already received billions of robotexts this year.
According to Robokiller's report, Americans have received more than 66 billion spam text messages, also known as robotexts, between Jan. and June 2022. The company's sister app, TextKiller, has projected that by the end of this year, the number of scam texts received by Americans will exceed 147 billion—a 68 percent increase from the spike of nearly 88 billion reached in 2021.
"Robotexts are increasingly out of control," Robokiller's report states. "If 2021 was the year of the robotext, we'll need a new moniker for 2022—a year well on its way to SMS infamy. At this rate, records won't just break, they'll shatter."
And while you may assume you're smart enough not to fall for a scam text, these dangerous robotexts have become costly for victims, according to Robokiller's report. TextKiller estimated that between Jan. and June of this year, Americans have lost around $9.7 billion to scam text messages. By the end of 2022, it is projected that a total of $28 billion could be stolen by con artists through these scams, which would be a 179 percent increase from what was lost in 2021.
Scammers have common schemes they use when targeting people through texts.
While scam texts come in all shapes and sizes, there are some common themes that might raise red flags. According to Robokiller's reports, "scammers are known to follow consumer behavior trends so they can reach people more easily." That's why during the summer months, travel text scams are usually more prevalent. Robokiller reported that in June 2022, travel scams reached 150 million texts.
But as the fall and winter months roll in, you'll need to be on the lookout for a different type of scheme. "In contrast, delivery scams tend to soar during the holidays when everyone is shopping," the company's report explained. In 2021, delivery scams increased by 28 percent from November to December, per Robokiller.
According to Consumer Affairs, scammers also tend to use well-known names when sending texts, like Amazon, Target, Apple, or even the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). This is done by con artists "in the hopes that consumers will respond at the sight of a recognizable company," Consumer Affairs explained.
Blocking certain numbers can help prevent scam texts.
This widespread issue might seem overwhelming but most experts recommend that phone users start blocking numbers they don't know—especially if they send messages that are similar to common scam texts. "Blocking unknown numbers is beneficial, and is a guaranteed way that strangers can't contact you," Consumer Affairs explains. "Or, change a setting on your phone that filters unknown senders, which will prohibit unknown numbers from contacting you."
Both iPhone and Android give users the option to block specific numbers from contacting you through the settings of a text message they've sent you, according to The New York Times. The newspaper also explains that iPhone users can "filter unknown senders" for all text messages, which will place unknown numbers not in their contacts in a separate messages folder. Android users can use their spam messages settings to enable the "block unknown senders" option.
"Several mobile service providers allow you to block the sender by forwarding unwanted texts to 7726 (or 'SPAM')," the FCC also says. "Check with your provider about options."