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Phone Scams Down, Text Scams Up

Federal efforts have decreased the number of phone scams, but criminals focus now on text scams. The 1B spam texts sent in July 2021 increased to 12B this June.

NEW YORK – You may have noticed receiving fewer robocalls over the past year, but a new report finds scammers are increasingly using a new way to reach consumers: text messages.

A report from the Consumer Watchdog office of the nonprofit U.S. PIRG is urging the Federal Communications Commission to pass new rules against robotexts, including requiring phone companies to block illegal text scams.

“Illegal robocalls and robotexts likely will never go away,” an excerpt from the report reads. “But they’ll continue to plague us as long as enforcement is lax, phone companies don’t try harder and enough consumers fall for scams to make it worthwhile for thieves.”

Spam texts have surged over the past year, jumping from 1 billion sent per month in July 2021, to more than 12 billion as of June, according to RoboKiller, a service specializing in blocking unwanted calls and texts.

Last year, acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel proposed new rules requiring wireless carriers to block illegal texts. In a statement released last October, the agency said complaints about unwanted text messages in 2020 more than doubled from the year before.

“We’ve seen a rise in scammers trying to take advantage of our trust of text messages by sending bogus robotexts that try to trick consumers to share sensitive information or click on malicious links,” Rosenworcel said in last year’s statement.

The top scam texts of last year involved bogus delivery messages claiming to represent Amazon, the U.S. Postal Service or other companies. The messages say an order can’t be delivered or will arrive tomorrow, with a malicious link consumers click, the watchdog report said.

Others included fake messages from banks and texts related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, the number of robocalls has declined over the past year, in part because of FCC rules requiring the use of technology to better identify robocalls and efforts by the agency and states to go after robocallers.

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