Scammers have long used social media to impersonate people you know and trust, but recently they’ve been using a new tactic: text messages with a spoofed caller ID. This scam can be hard to spot at first glance, so watch out for the warning signs.
How the scam works
You get a text message that shows up in your phone as from “Mom” (or in other variations, “Dad.”) According to the message, “Mom” is at the store, but she left her credit card at home by accident. Could you send her $150 to finish her shopping?
The request seems harmless, but don’t do it! Scammers have spoofed caller ID to appear as “Mom” or “Dad.” They are relying on the fact that many people have “Dad” or “Mom” saved in their contacts list. Scammers hope you won’t think twice (or double-check the phone number) before sending help. If you do transfer money to a bank or digital wallet account, your money will be gone for good.
How to spot fake emergency text messages
- If anything about a message is unusual, consider it a red flag. If your parents never send text messages, it’s probably not them texting now. On the other hand, if they text all the time but never ask for money, you’re probably dealing with an impersonator.
- Look for a new message thread. If you text with your parents on a regular basis, you should be able to see previous messages from them. If you can’t see any of the earlier messages, it’s probably a scammer contacting you for the first time.
- Double check the sender info. Click on the sender information to make sure the name matches your parent’s real phone number.
- Call your parents to confirm the store. Look up their number in your contacts list and call them to confirm if the message really came from them.
- Don’t be fooled if a scammer has personal information about you. Because of data breaches and social media posts, scammers may have their hands on some of your personal information, including your name and your parent’s name.
- If you suspect a scam, don’t answer the message. Just block the number and delete the message. If you reply, scammers will know your number is active and could target you with scams in the future.
For more information
Read about other ways scammers use text messages in the BBB Scam Alert: That’s not your boss texting. Learn how to spot and avoid emergency scams. Find more useful advice in BBB’s tip on spotting the red flags of fake text messages.