INDIANAPOLIS — If you’ve noticed more spam text messages coming to your phone recently, you’re not alone.
According to Robokiller, spam texts have dramatically increased with the start of the holiday shopping season. Robokiller, a spam call and text blocker, collected data showing Americans received roughly 18 billion spam texts in October. In November, that number jumped to about 47 billion. That’s a 160% increase that translates into 173 spam messages for every person in the United States.
“That tells me that not only are all of us consumers looking for sales and paying attention to online shopping this time of year, but unfortunately so are the criminals,” said Scott Shackelford, I.U. Cyber Security program director.
One popular scam right now is the “missed delivery” scam. It involves a consumer receiving a text message that describes a problem or delay with a delivery. The message includes a link for you to click in order to resolve the issue. Those links, however, are just the scammer’s gateway to start gathering your personal information or ask for extra payment.
“There’s a lot of activity on the dark web in terms of looking for breached personal information that could be used to launch phishing attacks to really go after folks who are doing a lot of online shopping,” Shackelford said.
During normal times, consumers may be less likely to click on a link sent in a text message. However, many legitimate stores and delivery services use text messaging to update customers on their orders and deliveries. Scammers are getting better at making their messages look legitimate.
And let’s face it, it’s easy to lose track of how many orders and deliveries you might have out there during this shopping season.
“Oftentimes, a lot of us would catch that type of behavior,” Shackelford said. “But again, during the holiday season, when tensions are high, when we are paying extra for shipping, we wouldn’t think about it as closely.”
Shackelford points out that any legitimate business needs to have permission in order to send you a text message. That usually involves checking a box to allow such messages while making your order.
“You should be opting into tracking your shipments and letting you know when they reach to certain step along the way, or ultimately to your front door,” he said. “If you didn’t do that, if you purposely did not do that, be really wary of any text messages you’re receiving. I’ve even gotten them over the last couple weeks.”
The safest advice from experts is simply to avoid clicking any links sent in a text message. You can also look at the web address of the sender or hover over the link without clicking.
“Make sure that URL looks legitimate,” Shackelford added. “Something like hallmark-dot-com, and not like a string of nonsensical letters-dot-com.”
The Federal Trade Commission has information on how to recognize, block and report spam text messages. You can read more on the FTC’s website.