Fake text messages are arriving in our cell phones with increasing frequency. They look like simple mistakes. For example:
“Tom, we can’t be at your place tomorrow until 10. Sorry for the delay. Tell Susan we will bring the dishes.”
You get a message like this and assume it is just a wrong number, so you send back a brief response.
“Hello. I am not Tom. Your message was sent to the wrong person.”
You figure this will end the texting, but instead you get a response. The person on the other end, claiming her name is Amy, strikes up a conversation with you. She thanks you for alerting her to the wrong number and asks you a few innocent questions. She may have just moved to this country and likes to cook. She seems nice, so you respond and exchange a few messages. At some point, maybe after many messages, she mentions that she has connections with cryptocurrency and asks if you know about them. Soon you are sending her money to buy crypto that she claims has a very high rate of return.
Stop. The whole exchange is fake. Authorities believe that these innocuous text messages are the latest methods scammers are using to trick you into investing in fake cryptocurrencies.
They are called “wrong number scams” and they are the newest technique used by criminals to steal thousands of dollars from gullible victims.
Text message scams may now be surpassing email and robocalling frauds. The crooks are very clever and use “wrong number” messages designed to get any kind of response.
“Bill, I’ll drop off the tools tomorrow at 10 if you are home.”
“Anna, call me back.”
Simple messages like these are designed to elicit a response and start a conversation. Although most folks ignore them, the victims who are duped into “investing” in the fake cryptocurrency have lost enormous sums of money.
One trick used by the crooks is to persuade the victim to send a small amount of crypto which they can then withdraw, proving that the “investment” is real. This encourages the victim to invest more. Only when they try to withdraw their large investments do they discover that the crypto exchange was fake and they have lost everything.
The Federal Trade Commission estimates that only about 6% of recipients of text message fraud have actually lost money, but those who did have lost thousands of dollars.
“Wrong number” text messages on your phone may not be innocent. Be careful and if the “friendly person” on the other end tries to engage you in a conversation that turns into an opportunity to invest in crypto, beware.
Dick Eppstein is president of the Better Business Bureau, serving Northwest Ohio and southeastern Michigan.