Unexplained Surge In Robotext Scams

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has reported increases in complaints due to scam robotexts and it says that Americans received more spam texts in 2021 than ever before. 

Robotext scams are rapidly increasing and could be more than robocalls as a current method of fraud. These are automated Text messages used to mask the originating number and make it appear that the text is coming from a number the recipient is likely to trust. 

Scammers use these methods to get you to respond to a text and the criminals may opt for a local number, or impersonate a government agency, such as the IRS, or a company you’re familiar with. Many of the scam texts contain messages regarding fake unpaid bills, bank account issues, and package deliveries. In addition, some of the scams pretend to be texting someone else.

The FCC tracks consumer complaints, and found that the number of complaints have risen from 5700 in 2019 to 15,300 in 2021. The FCC says that the amount of scam texts from robocall and robotext blocking services are increasing alongside the scam texts. Texas is a hotspot where users received over 10 billion fake messages. 

According to the anti-spam platform RoboKiller, Americans got 12.02 billion scam texts in June alone. The volume of spam texts rose 58% to 87.85 billion last year.

In June 2021, the FCC mandated the use of an anti-spoofing technology called the Secure Telephone Identity Revisited (STIR) protocol, and its implementation framework, Signature-based Handling of Asserted Information using toKENs (SHAKEN).  These anti-spoofing technologies are intended to stop scammers by applying digital signatures to telephone numbers from calling parties on Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) networks, although this technology only works with voice calls, not text messages.

Text-based scammers are typically trying to gain personal information about the recipient that can be exploited for financial gain - payment card numbers, proof of identity and other personal details. 

The FCC previously mandated the use of anti-spoofing technology to stop scammers by applying digital signatures to telephone numbers. This means that targets often receive phone calls that state “scam risk” and are therefore more aware of the nature of that call. The technology only applies to voice calls, not text messages. 

The FCC has  warned people to avoid responding to suspicious texts or clicking on any links they might contain. They can forward unwanted texts to SPAM (7726). "Scam text message senders want you to engage with them...  a robotexter may use fear and anxiety to get you to interact... Texts may include false-but-believable claims about unpaid bills, package delivery snafus, bank account problems, or law enforcement actions against you. They may provide confusing information, as if they were texting someone else, incomplete information, or utilise other techniques to spur your curiosity and engagement." the FCC has said.

Some scammers are usually after your money, others may simply be trying to collect personal information or confirm that a number is active for use in future scams.

The FFC advice is not to respond or click on any links in the message. If you think a text might be legitimate, you are advised to look up contact information separately and contact the company, government agency, or law enforcement directly.

FCC:     Robokiller:     Secureworld:    Unified Guru:    Oodalop:      Infosecurity Magazine:    TEISS:   

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