Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

March 13, 2014

Unsolicited texts: Scammers at it again


Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— A growing number of individuals communicate nowadays via text messages. We send and receive texts on a daily basis. Some people actually prefer communicating by text over actually talking on the telephone.

And this growing trend has unfortunately opened the door for scammers. According to West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, a new scam text is going around where the recipient is allegedly offered free gift cards and prizes. But those who respond to the text instead end up signing up for multiple trial offers to “qualify” for free prizes. And in some cases, the consumers also are billed a monthly reoccurring charge.

According to Morrisey, scammers appear to be targeting numbers at random, and are typically able to reach millions of customers with computer programs that send bulk messages using a few simple keystrokes. Additionally, there are reports of the retailer in the gift card message changing frequently.

Morrisey says the Federal Trade Commission recently settled with a marketer who sent millions of unsolicited text messages to consumers telling them they had won electronics or other prizes such as $1,000 gift cards to major national retailers. The messages typically read, “You have been selected for a $1,000 gift card. Enter code ‘FREE’ at [web site address] to claim your prize. 150 left!!”

 However, consumers who clicked on those links didn’t end up with the “free” prizes, according to Morrisey. Instead, they were signing up for multiple trial offers to “qualify” for the “free” prizes. In some cases, consumers also were billed for monthly recurring charges.

 “Some scammers have figured out that mobile phones are one of the easiest ways to get directly to a consumer,” Morrisey said. “Unfortunately, for these consumers, clicking those links might add up hundreds of dollars in charges on their bills, which is just wrong.”

Morrisey offers the following common-sense suggestions for individuals who receive an unsolicited text message.

• Delete it immediately, especially if the message asks you to reply with a code or with personal information. A legitimate company will never send you a text message or an email to ask you for your credit card numbers, bank account information or Social Security number.

• Don’t be tempted to click on any links in the text message. These links can take you to spoof sites that can look authentic, but are designed to steal your personal information.

• Review your cell phone bill for any suspicious, unauthorized charges and immediately report them to your carrier.

As technology continues to advance, so will the efforts of those criminals who are trying to milk us out of our hard-earned cash. That’s why everyone should remain vigilant. And it is important to remember that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

If you believe you have been the victim of this or other scams, please contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Office at 1-800-368-8808.