Text messages popular with scammers, too
By Attorney General Roy Cooper
Text messages are a convenient and increasingly popular way to communicate. Unfortunately, scammers know this and are starting to use text messages to try to steal your money and your personal information.
For example, you may get a text message claiming that you’ve won a gift card for Wal-Mart or Best Buy, or a free iPad. The message claims that all you need to do to win your prize is provide your credit card information to cover shipping and handling costs. The scammers are hoping you’ll give up your credit card number so they can rack up charges—without, of course, ever sending you the promised prize.
This type of scam isn’t new. Scammers have long used phone calls and emails to try to get consumers to reveal personal financial information such as credit card numbers. Text messages are just another avenue for scammers to try to trick you.
Scammers also use text messaging to ring up extra charges that appear on your mobile phone bill. You may get texts that contain jokes, games or special ring tones that you didn’t authorize. The third-party company then submits the charge to your wireless provider, and added fees wind up on your phone bill. In many cases, consumers get signed up for these unwanted texts when they give their cell number in response to a survey or sign up on a website.
Cramming in extra fees on your phone bill is a tactic that scammers have used for years. Only now, instead of adding various fees to your landline phone bill, the charges show up on your cell phone bill.
Text messages are also a way for illegal payday lenders to try to find victims. “Need a payday loan up to $1500? Visit our website for INSTANT approval, cash in one hour!” claim their texts. Payday lenders promise quick cash with no strings attached but usually forget to tell you that you’ll wind up paying interest rates of 400 percent or more. Many borrowers find themselves unable to pay back the loan when it’s due a short time later. It’s easy to get stuck in a cycle where you take out one payday loan after another, getting deeper and deeper in debt.
Payday loans are banned here in North Carolina because of their unlawfully high interest rates, and we shut down storefront payday lending in 2006. Unfortunately, payday lenders continue to operate in other states and overseas, and many of them pitch their illegal loans to North Carolina consumers via text messages and online.
To protect yourself from text message scams:
- Don’t respond to unsolicited text messages. Responding can encourage more fraudulent messages.
- Don’t provide personal information to someone you don’t know who texts you.
- Block unwanted text messages through your cell phone provider.
- Put your mobile phone number on the Do Not Call list by visiting www.donotcall.gov or calling 1-888-382-1222 from the number you wish to register.
- Report text message scams to your cell phone provider and our office (call 1-877-5-NO-SCAM toll-free within North Carolina or file a complaint with us online at www.ncdoj.gov).
- Check your cell phone bill carefully. If you notice any unusual or unauthorized fees, dispute them. Contact our office if you need help.