Warning: Unexpected text message could lead to unpleasant pain in your pocket

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — When your cell phone rings, how often do you let it go to voicemail? But when you get a text message, studies show there is a very good chance you are going to read it when it is convenient.

That is a guaranteed audience for scammers to do their dirt.

Melanie McGovern of the Better Business Bureau told us, they are coming and the fake texts, sometimes called “smshing,” will likely come in a tidal wave, especially with the holiday shopping season.

“Text scams are becoming the new phone scam, because people don’t answer their phones anymore, but they do look at their texts. So scammers are aware of that,” McGovern said.

“We know text messages get read 95 percent of the time. What they are relying on is for you to not think about that, click on that link, give them personal information, and then you don’t know where they are going with that.”

You might recall the flood of bogus messages posing as M&T Bank texts, during the shopping season in 2019 stopping thousands of M&T customers and non-customers in their tracks. McGovern expects the scammers to pose as big-name brands to rip consumers off or steal their identity.

The person who received this bogus text was tempted to click the link because she has a Chase account, but McGovern says the larger companies’ texts will generally have a code at the top, rather than a phone number.

“A lot of the brands that do send texts, you will get like a five-digit code at the top. These are coming from phone numbers which is usually not the case when you are getting a mass tech scrum — a national brand. So that is definitely a red flag as well,” McGovern added.

But text messages can be an effective way for businesses to communicate with their customers, and McGovern says if you are not sure, contact the business directly through a number or email you are familiar with.

“You could open yourself up to malware, identity theft, more texts. So it is always a good idea not to click on that link, to go directly to the website of the company that is allegedly sending you that link,” said McGovern.

McGovern also says the major wireless companies want customers to report bogus text messages, so they can track them. Never, never, never send your personal information, like your Social Security Number or bank account, by text message.

Al Vaughters is an award-winning investigative reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 1994. See more of his work here. To submit a Call 4 Action, click here.

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