May 4, 2022

Scammer round-up: May 2022

Written by kevin-c

Online Safety

Every month, we here at TextNow take a look at some of the 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.

So, in the spirit of public service, here are some of the recent scams going around you should avoid:

May is Older Americans Month, making it the perfect time to talk about how seniors are often the target of phone and online scams. While some scams can be quite complex, others (like this next one) are surprisingly bold. Here are two scams that are currently making the rounds:

Fraudulent bail scam

In January 2022, Vancouver police warned about a new scam targeting senior citizens. In this scam, the fraudster calls a senior and claims to be their grandchild. Posing as their family member, the fraudster tells the victim they’ve arrested and need cash to be released. They instruct the victims to place money in an envelope, and inform them that “someone from the courthouse” will be by to pick it up. In a worst case scenario, the victims then hand over the cash to this fake “courthouse person,” and the scam is complete. According to the Vancouver police, two people were scammed for nearly $10,000 this way.

Some things to always keep in mind when it comes to scams like this:

  1. Verify the information. In this case, call the person and confirm if they've been in an accident.

  2. Keep verifying the information. Make a call to the courthouse to verify the process; in this case, they could have told them that “courthouse people” don’t make house calls to pick up bail money.

  3. Never just hand over money to a person you don’t know. In this case, the victims could have told the scammer they were going to get a cashier’s check or money order, for example. There’s no way to trace cash, but both money orders and cashier’s check provide extra layers of security.

Texts from your own number

Scammers tend to use the element of surprise to defraud people in the “text from your own number” scam. Here’s an example of how it works:

You’ll get a text thanking you for paying a bill, with an offer to get a gift if you just click on a link. The link will lead you to a fraudulent website where they will ask you for personal information, or even a credit card number. In some cases, clicking the link will download nefarious software (known as “malware”) to your phone, exposing it to further attacks and putting your personal info at risk.

A few quick (and simple) tips to keep in mind for this scam:

  1. Do not click on messages from your own number. It’s almost certainly a scam, so delete it.

  2. Do not click on links sent to you from an unknown or suspicious source. (Like your own number.)

  3. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

If you come across any of these scams, you can report them directly to the US Treasury department and/or email the IRS at [email protected]. Be sure to put "IRS Phone Scam" in the subject line to make sure it gets to the right place.

Until next time, keep your eyes peeled for these and other potential scams and stay safe out there.