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Media > Newsletters > Consumer Advocate > October 2022 > How to handle scam text messages

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How to handle scam text messages

Throughout the United States, the Federal Trade Commission says, $131 million was reported lost in 2021 to frauds originating via text messages – a practice known as “smishing.” In 6% of the 377,840 total cases, complainants said they lost money, with a median loss of $1,000.
The Federal Communications Commission, which regulates mobile-phone providers, has fielded an increasing number of smishing complaints in recent years – 5,700 in 2019, 14,000 in 2020 and 15,300 last year. The 8,500 complaints it had received through June 30 suggests that the 2022 total could set another annual record.
As regulations aimed at identifying the source of robocalls have tightened, scammers have increasingly turned to texting to wreak their havoc.
Smishing occurs when scammers send a text message that purports to be from a legitimate business or organization. The message might instruct you to click on a link to confirm or input your account information. The text might even falsely claim that you have purchased a product or service costing hundreds of dollars, and it might include a sense of urgency, suggesting that your account will be suspended or that you’ll be charged for an item if you don’t act immediately. By entering your username and password using the sham link on an impostor webpage, you open the door for a scammer to steal your personal information and gain access to your account.
Smishing scams rely on various prompts to trick their victims. For example, texts might say that an unknown package is ready to be tracked, that your bank is closing your account or denying access to your debit card, that you’ve won a prize or that you need to confirm the purchase of a product.
Here are some ways to avoid being victimized by scam text messages:
  • Check your related accounts first before clicking on a link. If you receive an unusual text or email claiming to be from a trusted business or organization, do not click on the link in the message. Check your accounts through websites or phone numbers that you have verified to make sure your accounts are intact and that you have not purchased any unwanted items. Something to look for: Often a fake link contains a slight misspelling or differs slightly in other ways from the legitimate website.
  • Never call back an unknown number. Use the information on the company’s official website and not a number listed in an unexpected text.
  • Don’t pay a stranger with a gift card. If you are asked to pay with a gift card, it’s a scam.
  • Don’t give remote access to someone who contacts you unexpectedly. The contact might claim to be from a government office, computer repair company or popular online store. Remote access to your computer or other electronic devices gives scammers easy access to your personal and financial information, such as your bank account. They might claim to be refunding your money but instead try to steal it.
If you receive an unwanted text message claiming to be from a business, there are four ways to follow up:
  • Report it to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at
  • Report it on the messaging app you use. Look for the option to report junk or spam.
  • Forward the message to 7726 (SPAM).
  • Report it to the FTC at
Consumers who suspect a scam or an unfair business practice should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at or 800-282-0515.