January 12, 2023

Scammer Round-up: January 2023

Written by kevin-c

Online Safety

Scammer round-up: Jan 2023

From time to time, we post a blog about some of the many calling and texting scams being perpetrated by bad actors targeting phone users of all kinds (not just TextNow). We work very hard here to keep scammers and fraudsters off our platform, but with millions of messages and calls sent every day, it's a big job. All carriers are in the same boat of trying to restrict their platform to legitimate users.

While the holidays may be over, scammers sadly don’t take breaks. The thing about scammers is they are incredibly quick to mutate their scam to fit whatever’s currently in vogue. So here’s some of the scams to keep an eye out for in 2023:

Crypto + romance scams

We’ve talked about scams around both cryptocurrencies and romance separately here at the TextNow blog, and in true scammer fashion they’ve taken to welding the two together. Basically, the scammer poses as a potential love interest over texts or messages, and then tricks their targets into “investing” in crypto, promising wild returns on investments. A particularly nefarious variant is the scammer getting their marks to download a crypto “app” – which is a site completely fabricated by the scammers. The fake site might even show your “investment” growing, while the scammers are just taking any money you put into it.

OTP bot scams

OTP (one-time-password) bot scams are dramatically on the rise, according to scam watchers. This scam is a bit more complicated than usual – the scammers try to log into your bank account (or credit card or other financial account) using your email address. That prompts a bot (automated software) to call your cell number with a message that looks legitimate, supposedly from your bank, saying there’s been unauthorized access to your account, and asks you to text back an authorization number from your two-factor authorization app, which the scammer then uses to access your account for real.

Student loan forgiveness scam

Another example of scammers using headlines to build a scam around. Unlike the bot scams, these are pretty straightforward. The scammer calls pretending to be from the Department of Education and tells the mark that an amount of their student loan will be forgiven but will require payment to be made before it can be forgiven. Obviously, this isn’t how loan forgiveness works, and if you make a payment that money will go to the scammer.

With regards to student loans specifically you can find all the real information on the Federal Student Aid website.

Puppy scams

I wish this involved furball-related offenses perpetuated (or should I say PUPetuated) by adorable puppies, it is sadly just a variant of the loan forgiveness scam. It works like this: Scammers put an ad on Facebook (or any social media site) offering cute dogs for adoption. In one instance documented by the BBB, a woman paid $850 for a Dalmatian puppy, only to receive additional requests for money – first $725 for travel insurance for the dog, then $615 for a special crate. In the end, the buyer lost $2,200 and never got the puppy – because there was no puppy.

Stay vigilant

Many of these scams tend to fall apart with the slightest scrutiny. The classic rule will always apply: If it sounds too good to be true, trust your instincts and consider that it probably isn't the deal of a lifetime that only you can redeem.

If you get hit with a message you think seems weird, pause before you do anything. And this should go without saying, but never ever send money (or gift cards) to people without being certain the person you’re speaking with is on the up and up. Keep the us.gov scam reporting site bookmarked as there’s tons of great info there to help you spot scams before they happen.