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How to protect yourself against COVID-19 SMS scams

UPDATED: 30th July 2020

With the rising number of SMS scams growing across the world, it’s important to us that you know how to protect yourself against them as they become more and more sophisticated. We’ve alerted you to the Top 6 SMS scams to look out for but it’s essential that you know what to do when you encounter them.

1. Verify the sender 

Only do this where you can as most SMS messages may come from a dedicated number that is not easily recognised. Remember that most reputable businesses, health organisations or government agencies will NOT ask for any sensitive information, call for donations or request money through a simple SMS. If they are, they are probably fraudulent.

If it looks like it is coming from a reputable organisation, you can search for the organisation in your browser and check its actual link against the one offered to you. In addition, you can also contact the organisation to confirm that they sent this message and this is their dedicated SMS number.

2. Be careful clicking 

Most SMS phishing scams will be unsolicited and an embedded link encouraging you to click through. Their aim is to get you to install their malware or to share your personal information, such as account details, with them.

Just remember, no matter how good (or bad) it sounds – be wary of clicking any links. If you’re suspicious of the sender, try not to open the message at all.

3. Don’t panic

If you receive a text message with information intending to scare you, the very best thing you can do is take a deep breath. Don’t put any pressure on yourself to act immediately, no matter what communications you may have received. Remember, scammers take advantage of panic and anxiety in order to get victims to make hasty decisions. Verify the information that is being served to you first.

In case you have given out your information to a scammer – again, don’t panic! It happens. Do your best to IMMEDIATELY change all passwords and sensitive information. Update your personal account information, as well as work accounts, bank accounts and anything that is linked to friends and family who could be impacted.

In addition, we also suggest installing reputable antivirus software in order to make sure that any malware is wiped from your device too.

4. Spot the difference

According to TSB, 4/5 people struggle to spot the difference between a real text message and a scam message. Here are some tips to spot the difference between a real COVID-19 SMS and a fake scammer’s:

  • Scam texts won’t adhere to compliance laws. For example, if you receive a text in Australia without an opt-out mechanism (To opt-out reply STOP).
  • Texts allegedly coming from government bodies will typically have short links with .gov at the end
  • Asking for personal or financial details? Delete it straight away.
  • Asking for upfront payment or unusual payment pathways? Delete.
  • Linguistic or grammatical errors usually means it comes from a nefarious source.
  • Messages that compel you to take action quickly, urgently or within a time limit. If you don’t, there’s often a looming threat of punishment or a financial penalty. Delete.
  • Offers a downloadable that you weren’t after or seeking.
  • Did you win a contest or competition you’ve never heard of? Delete.
  • Is it reasonable that what is being asked of you is something that wouldn’t be done over text? Claiming a support payment, letting you know of a positive COVID diagnosis, getting a tax refund are not reasonable communications from an authorised health, government or legal body.

5. Report it 

While it’s easier said than done, the more scams that are reported, the fewer victims there may be in the future. Find your local government authority or organisation such as Australia’s Scamwatch, who is reporting on COVID-19 (Coronavirus) scams and send in:

  • screen grabs from your mobile device
  • the phone number it came from
  • who they claimed to be
  • any other relevant information

Further reading on COVID-19

As a global SMS provider, MessageMedia Group wants to reassure businesses that we are being conscientious and proactive during this public health situation. We will do what we can on our end to stamp out smishing scams and other kinds of bad behaviour that attempt to exploit or take advantage of you during this time. It is important to us that you know we are here to help.

If you want to know how we’re dealing with the rapid spread of this outbreak internally, have a read of MessageMedia Group’s public statement from our CEO, Paul Perrett.