August 13, 2022
US FCC warns citizens about rising text message scams

US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has warned American citizens of a rising wave of SMS (Short Message Service) phishing attacks attempting to steal their personal information and money.

It’s the kind of text message that has become common for just about anyone with a smartphone.

If recipients respond, scammers will try to establish relationships with the potential victims and eventually try to persuade them to give away their savings to scammers.

The Commission issued an alert warning consumer that these texts are on the rise. It added that it was also seeing more reports of scam texts from robocall and robotext blocking services.

Such attacks are also known as smishing and scammers behind them may use various lure tricks to obtain confidential information.

The scams don’t indicate any security issue with people’s smartphones or personal information, although there’s no reliable way to block them. The Federal Communications Commission, which issued a warning said ignoring them is the most effective way to make sure you’re not scammed.

“The FCC tracks consumer complaints – rather than call or text volume – and complaints about unwanted text messages have risen steadily in recent years from approximately 5,700 in 2019, 14,000 in 2020, 15,300 in 2021, to 8,500 through June 30, 2022,” the US communications watchdog’s Robocall Response Team said [PDF].

While most people don’t fall for such scams — the FTC’s estimates for this year found that 6% of people who reported text message fraud lost money on them — those who do become victims can lose enormous sums.

According to RoboKiller, a Text & Spam Call Blocker App Americans got 12.02 billion scam texts in June alone. The volume of spam texts rose 58% to 87.85 billion last year, it said in its 2021 Phone Scam Insights report.

An FBI also issued the warning last week that since late last year, at least 244 people have lost a combined $42.7 million to such fake investment scams.

In June 2021, the FCC mandated the use of an anti-spoofing technology called the secure telephone identity revisited (STIR) protocol, and its implementation framework, signature-based handling of asserted information using toKENs (SHAKEN). These anti-spoofing technologies are intended to stop scammers by applying digital signatures to telephone numbers from calling parties on session initiation protocol (SIP) networks. However, the technology only addresses voice calls and not text messages.

To defend against SMS phishing attacks, FCC recommends taking the following measures:

  • Do not respond to texts from unknown numbers or any others that appear suspicious.
  • Never share sensitive personal or financial information by text.
  • Be on the lookout for misspellings or texts that originate with an email address.
  • Think twice before clicking any links in a text message. If a friend sends you a text with a suspicious link that seems out of character, call them to ensure they weren’t hacked.
  • If a business sends you a text you weren’t expecting, look up their number online and call them back.
  • Remember that government agencies rarely initiate contact by phone or text.
  • Report texting scam attempts to your wireless service provider by forwarding unwanted texts to 7726 (or “SPAM”).
  • File a complaint with the FCC.

However, In October 2021, FCC chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel proposed a rule that would force mobile providers to block illegal text messages.

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