The uptick in online shopping hasn’t just been a boon for Amazon; criminals have seized the opportunity to turn a profit of their own. Over the past several weeks, people have received text messages asking them to reply with their credit card information as they have a package to claim.
Nationwide, customers across cellphone carriers have received the same message: “[Name], we found a parcel from [a recent month] owed to you. Kindly assume ownership and confirm for delivery here.” The message contains a link that purportedly connects you with your missing package; however, it’s a phishing scam intended to capture your credit card information.
Phishing is a fraudulent practice of reaching out to people online via email or messaging (usually pretending to be someone else) and luring them into downloading a file or clicking on an embedded link.
Along with capturing personal information, scammers often drop malware on your device (software specifically designed to disrupt, damage, gain access to a computer system). There are dozens of kinds of malware, including adware, ransomware, and spyware, that monitor and collect your online activity.
Americans lose millions of dollars to scammers every year. They’ve figured out countless ways to cheat consumers via phone calls and text. Sometimes they pose as family members, employers, or even the IRS. Other times, they use fear or threats to push you into sharing personal information to commit identity theft in others.
Here are the red flags to look for when you receive a suspicious text or email that asks you to click on a link:
- Is the link in an unsolicited message?
- Is the message urgent, misspelled, or asking for money or personal information?
- Is the embedded URL different than the link shown?
If you click through to an embedded link that leads to a website that seems suspicious, don’t share personal information or download anything. Exit the website immediately and block the number on your phone.
Remember, the IRS will never call to confirm personal information. You should never send cash or pay with a gift card as they are almost impossible to track, lowering your chance of recovering any losses.
If you suspect you have been the victim of a scam, contact the Better Business Bureau Scam Tracker. If you’ve lost money to a phone scam or have information about the company or scammer who called you, report it at ftc.gov/complaint.
Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.