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Urgent Text? Not So Fast

“Ding.” You reach for your phone after it sounds its usual text message notification. And if you’re like most of us, you will open it (texts have a 98 percent open rate) and respond quickly (we answer texts within 90 seconds). Read on to learn how smishing attacks (a type of phishing) take advantage of our texting habits.

How It Works

  • The text message throws you into an emotional state — fear that your bank account has been hacked, excitement to answer a survey to claim $100, or worry that your utilities are about to be shut off.

  • The text will offer a solution: “Click here” or call a certain number.

What You Should Know:

  • Text message scams (or “smishing”— a play on short message service) are on the rise, according to the call-blocking service RoboKiller, outnumbering fraudulent phone calls.

  • Because we tend to respond so quickly to texts, we are a click or phone call away from having our money or sensitive data stolen.

What You Should Do

  • When you hear that familiar ding, get into the habit of pausing before reacting.

  • If you think that the text may be real, contact the sender in a way you know to be legitimate (for example, by using a phone number on a recent statement or by logging in to an existing account you may have with the sender).

  • ·Avoid responding with “STOP” if prompted to; it simply proves that your number is active, and it will be sold to other scammers.

  • Investigate how to block unwanted texts on your device or through your service provider. 

  • Forward spam and scam texts to 7726 (SPAM), the spam-reporting service the mobile phone industry runs. 

Knowledge gives you power over scams. The AARP Fraud Watch Network equips you with reliable, up-to-date insights and connects you to our free fraud helpline so you can better protect yourself and loved ones. We also advocate at the state, federal and local levels to enact policy changes that protect consumers and enforce laws.

When it comes to fraud, vigilance is our number one weapon. You have the power to protect yourself and your loved ones from scams. Please share this information with friends and family.

P.S. Are you active on social media? Do you enjoy sharing information that can help friends and family to spot and avoid scams? Become a volunteer AARP Fraud Watch Network (FWN) Digital Fraud Fighter! Interested? Send us a note at FWN@aarp.org for more information.

AARP’s Fraud Watch Network can help you spot and avoid scams. Sign up for free Watchdog Alerts, review our scam-tracking map, or call our toll-free fraud helpline at 877-908-3360 if you or a loved one suspect you’ve been a victim.