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How to spot a text scam with ease

Have you ever received a suspicious text? You’re not the only one.

April 2023 Time to read 5 min read

With mobile devices now a key part of our lives, text fraud is on the rise. So let’s make sure you know exactly how to spot and avoid these scams – because, even with strong digital banking security, it’s important to be vigilant online.

What is a text scam & how can you spot it?

Text message phishing (also known as smishing) is when scammers try to trick you into sharing personal details or downloading malware via text. This often involves them impersonating organizations you trust, like government agencies, major companies, or your financial institution.

Luckily, there are some clear warning signs you can use to identify text scams: 

  • Unsolicited contact – you get a message out of the blue from a company you use but weren’t expecting to hear from.
  • Abbreviated links – you’re encouraged to click a link that’s usually shortened or scrambled to hide where it’s taking you.
  • Intense urgency – you’re required to take action right now or you’ll be disconnected, locked out or miss a big opportunity.
  • Poor writing – you notice issues with punctuation, spelling, and grammar.

4 common text scams to avoid

But those aren’t the only way to spot a scam. There are also some common tactics text scammers use that you can watch for:

  1. Refund & overpayment notifications
    Who doesn’t love an unexpected windfall? But be wary! Scammers will claim you’re owed a refund as a way to entice you into sharing bank details for a transfer they won’t ever send.
    How to spot the scam
    Ask yourself:
    • Did I request a refund recently?
    • Have I interacted directly with this company or service provider lately?
    • Do I recognize the amount of the refund?
    If the answer to these questions is no, then the text is likely a scam.
  1. Suspicious activity alerts
    Words like “compromised account” and “suspicious activity” are alarming, so it’s only natural you’d want to act fast. But it’s important to be cautious. Fake alerts will encourage you to click a link or call a number to verify your identity. Of course, that will involve sharing key information about yourself.
    How to spot the scam
    Legitimate organizations will never text asking you for personal details, like login credentials or account numbers, and their alerts will never include links, phone numbers, or download requests.
  1. Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) updates
    Scams try to play on your emotions – and there’s little that brings more joy than a tax refund or more fear than a government warning. That’s why impersonating the CRA is a favourite tactic for scammers, especially around tax time.
    CRA text scams take a few different forms:
    • Unclaimed money – These messages notify you of an unclaimed tax refund, EI or benefit payment and require you to share personal information or bank details to receive the money.
    • Locked CRA account – These messages claim that there’s an error with your My Account and it will need to be updated. It then asks for your personal details to do so.
    • Demands for payment – These messages threaten legal action or arrest if you don’t immediately use the link provided to pay overdue taxes.
    How to spot the scam
    The CRA will not use text to start a conversation with you. So these messages will never be genuine.
  1. Bill notices
    It’s not uncommon to get notifications about bills. But make sure you verify that they’re genuine before taking action. Fake messages will request payment for bills that don’t exist or that you’ve already paid.
    How to spot the scam
    These scams will ask you to click a direct link in the message or call an unknown number to process the payment, instead of going through the channels you would normally use.

Quick tip   Quick tip:

Think a text message might be genuine?
Contact the organization it claims to be from directly, using a phone number or email address you know is legitimate.

What to do with a suspicious text

Now you know how to spot the tricks text scammers use, what should you do if you get a suspicious text? There are a number of ways to protect yourself and others:

  1. Don’t respond or click links
    Simply block the number and delete the text, without clicking any links, sharing any information or replying (even if it tells you to send a keyword to stop receiving messages).
  1. Keep your phone updated
    Smartphones will often receive updates with security patches that counter scams, so it’s important to keep your devices up to date with the latest operating system.
  1. Report the scam
    To help ensure others aren’t caught out, you can contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre online or by calling 1-888-495-8501.

Scammers are always trying to find new ways to trick us. If you’re worried that you might have been caught out, we’re here for you 24/7. Call us as soon as possible and we’ll help secure your accounts, as well as sharing other precautions you can take to protect yourself.

 For a compromised account:
  • Canada and US: 1.888.277.1043
  • International Collect: 1.306.566.1276
For a compromised credit card:
  • Canada and US: 1.855.341.4643
  • International Collect: 1.647.252.9564

Insurance solution to reduce your digital risk

If you want to proactively reduce online cyber risks before they happen, learn more about NFP’s DigitalShieldTM solution.