At the end of last year, a new type of PayPal text message scam began targeting smartphone users with a text message falsely warning them that they had sent money to an unknown recipient.
The text from the scammers provided a link for the victim to click on to “check the transaction.”
Even though it appears as an official PayPal link, it’s nothing of the sort. For those that take a closer look at the link, it comes from a site called pay-pail.com.
Clearly, these criminals know how to draw people in by making victims worry they’ve lost money.
The problem is, once you click on the link and enter your log in and password, then you’ve given the hackers exactly what they need.
Once they gain access to your PayPal account they will see your linked bank accounts or credit cards, along with your personal details including your address.
The reality is, scammers are using websites like PayPal, banking institutions, and even utility companies to trick people into clicking on a link in a text to verify their account.
Since some companies do legitimately use text messages to communicate with their customers I want to share with you some tips to keep you safe from falling victims to the latest so called “smishing” scams.
Don’t reply and never text STOP. Chances are you’ve probably received a legitimate text before from a business asking you to do a survey or even texting you a receipt from your purchase.
Oftentimes, a company will send you a text and at the end it will say something along the lines of, “reply STOP” to avoid further text messages.
As much as you want the company to stop texting you, it’s very dangerous to reply in any fashion to their text.
Once hackers know they have a person who is willing to respond, it may lead to more texts trying to get you to click on a link.
The best thing to do is contact a company directly by phone or e-mail and ask them to remove you from their texting list.
Use your cell provider’s text alias feature. Almost all major cell providers allow you to set up a text alias that you can use to receive texts.
The texts still come to your phone and you can send texts, but anyone you text sees an alias phone number instead of your actual number.
You can then block incoming texts from your real number and give all your friends and family the alias you are using.
Since scammers most likely won’t guess your alias and can’t look it up in a phone book, using an alias should cut down on the number of spam and smishing texts you receive.
Another option is to download the Google Voice app and use that phone number for your banking or online activity.
Basically, you still receive phone calls and texts to your phone but they can be sent to your Google Voice phone number so you won’t get bombarded with annoying texts to your real number.
Enable the “block texts from the internet” feature. Most spammers and smishers send texts via an internet text relay service, which helps hide their identities and doesn’t count against their text allowances.
Many cell providers will let you turn on a feature that will block texts that come in from the internet.
Usually, these texts sent from an internet relay service will have a short code number such as 200200.
In other words, the number is not a real phone number you can’t call it back since it’s a text generated from the internet.
Many hackers will use these short code numbers because they can send thousands of texts instantly online without paying text message fees to a cell phone provider.
Scammers and hackers are always looking for new ways to convince people that they are being contacted legitimately.
Most banks or even online accounts won’t text you to tell you something is wrong with your account.
They usually reach out to you over the phone so it’s more personal. Bottomline, never respond to a text asking for any personal information and reach out to the company by phone to verify it was them who contacted you in the first place.