The FCC Warns That SMS Phishing Attacks Are on the Rise

Some reports say Americans are hit with billions of robotexts each month. How can you handle it?
Adam Rowe

If you've gotten any random, weird SMS messages about outstanding bills or contested citizenship, you're not alone: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has just announced a huge wave in text message scams.

The FCC tracks complaints, not the actual volume of calls or texts. And complaints are up: Just 5,700 notified the FCC of unwanted text messages in 2019, then 14,000 in 2020 and 15,300 in 2021. Now, in just the first six months of the year, the FCC has already gotten 8,500 complaints.

Here's what to look for, and how to deal with it.

SMS Scammers Are Reaching More People Than Ever

What's behind the sudden boom in business for scams? Better robotics, mostly, paired with a pandemic-spurred shift to relying on virtual communication like texts.

Here's what details the FCC says might clue you in to the fact that you're looking at a scam:

“Texts may include false-but-believable claims about unpaid bills, package delivery snafus, bank account problems, or law enforcement actions against you. They may provide confusing information – as if they were texting someone else – incomplete information, or utilize other techniques to spur your curiosity and engagement.”

The news comes via an announcement from the FCC’s Robocall Response Team, which hopes to alert US residents to increasing amount of robotext scams aimed at separating them from their money:

“Substantial increases in consumer complaints to the FCC, reports by non-government robocall and robotext blocking services, and anecdotal and news reporting make it clear that text messages are increasingly being used by scammers to target American consumers.”

If you recognize a shifty text, you could just ignore it. But you have other options, as well.

How to Handle Scams

The FCC offers a wide range of practical solutions that you can take action on the next time you get a text message from “Instagram Copyright Information” saying that your account had violated the copyright terms.

Here's the full list of potential actions, per the FCC:

  • Do not respond to suspicious texts, even if the message requests that you “text STOP”
    to end messages.
  • Do not click on any links.
  • Do not provide any information via text or website.
  • Forward unwanted texts to SPAM (7726).
  • Delete all suspicious texts.
  • Update your smart device OS and security apps.
  • Consider installing anti-malware software.
  • Review companies’ policies regarding opting out of text alerts and selling/sharing your
    information.
  • Review text blocking tools in your mobile phone settings, available third-party apps,
    and your mobile phone carrier’s offerings.

You can also file a complaint through the FCC website, ensuring that your attempted scam gets recorded as one of the many scams US residents dealt with in 2022.

Businesses can adapt all the remote work safety software or VPNs they want, but SMS messages will always get through to their employees. Workshops that detail the FCC's suggestions may ultimately be the best solution.

This article was last updated on:
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Adam is a writer at Tech.co and has worked as a tech writer, blogger and copy editor for more than a decade. He's also a Forbes Contributor on the publishing industry, for which he was named a Digital Book World 2018 award finalist. His work has appeared in publications including Popular Mechanics and IDG Connect, and he has an art history book on 1970s sci-fi coming out from Abrams Books in 2022. In the meantime, he's hunting own the latest news on VPNs, POS systems, and the future of tech.

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