It sometimes feels like we get more text messages from scammers than from real people these days. And it’s not your imagination that things have gotten worse in the past year.
“In March, 11.6 billion scam messages were sent on American wireless networks, up 30 percent from February,” the New York Times reports.
Following are some of the worst recent scams to watch for.
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1. Medicare scams
The Federal Trade Commission notes scammers are taking advantage of Medicare’s open enrollment period to rip off seniors. The scam involves impersonating Medicare agents who request your Social Security number, banking details or credit card information in order to keep your benefits or sign up for a better plan.
Real Medicare representatives should already have the information they need from you. If not, they will call — not text — and only in specific situations.
You can report scammers of this type by calling 1-800-MEDICARE (800-633-4227) or visiting ReportFraud.ftc.gov.
2. Social Security scams
Scammers impersonating Social Security officials have been offering people higher benefits over text messages and luring them to a fake website to steal personal information, the Social Security Administration says.
There are ways to increase your benefit, but Social Security will only text you in certain rare situations described on its website, and it will never ask for personal info in the process.
You can report suspected scams at oig.ssa.gov/report.
3. Cable company scams
Want a lower cable or internet bill? Lately, scammers have been texting people to conveniently offer just that, the FTC says. They ask you to prepay part of your bill — in gift cards — to qualify for the offer.
Anyone telling you to pay with a gift card is scamming you, and you won’t be able to get the money back, according to the FTC.
Report scams of this type at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.
4. IRS scams
Tax season is a few months away still, but the IRS is warning of an “exponential” increase in text scams. These texts trick taxpayers into clicking a link where their personal information is collected by promising things such as tax credits or COVID-19 relief.
The IRS will never text you asking for personal or financial information. It asks you report such scams by emailing a copy of the exact text or sending a screenshot to email@example.com. You can also forward such texts to your wireless provider at 7726 (SPAM) so they can attempt to block the number from texting others.
5. Amazon scams
We’re entering the holiday shopping season, which is what you might call a prime opportunity for scammers. Texts posing as Amazon may mention orders you didn’t place and link to a purported Amazon URL, which is actually a fake designed to steal your personal and financial information.
Amazon’s website explains how to spot this type of scam and provides a way to report suspicious messages.
6. Student loan forgiveness scams
The recent move by the federal government to forgive up to $20,000 in student loan debt is providing even more juicy targets for scammers.
Common texts from these scammers may scare borrowers by claiming the program is being discontinued, that forgiveness is “first come, first served” or that you must verify personal information to qualify, the U.S. Education Department warns.
You can report such texts to the Education Department, and if you made the mistake of trusting a scam message, you should contact your loan servicer and bank immediately to notify them.
7. Tech support scams
The upcoming Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales days are a great time to upgrade your computer and other tech — something many of us occasionally need help setting up.
Scammers take advantage of that by impersonating tech support services such as Best Buy’s Geek Squad, the FTC warns. You may receive texts claiming you’ll be charged hundreds of dollars to renew membership to this service, even if you never signed up for it.
Once they get you worked up, the scammer might offer to reverse the charge if you provide your bank account information or remote access to your computer, which they then use to rob your accounts.
The FTC advises consumers in these situations to contact the company in question using a phone number they know is real — you might grab one from a recent billing statement, business card or the company website — and asking about the text message.
You can report these scams and others at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.