Getting a text from a wrong number is no big deal most of the time. Dialing a wrong number happens to pretty much everyone at some point. Your hands are sweaty, and your finger slips. Or it’s too dark or too bright and you can’t quite see your keypad. Or maybe somebody wrote a number down, and their handwriting is hard to read. The person apologizes, you accept their apology, and it’s forgotten. Sometimes, it’s slightly less pleasant than that. The person argues with you, refuses to believe they have the wrong number, or insists you’re somehow to blame for them not being able to reach the person they want. But a quick delete and block takes care of those situations.
At least that used to be all that was going on when someone accidentally texted your phone. Today, wrong number texts are part of an increasingly common scam.
The wrong number scam begins with a text that is clearly meant for somebody else’s phone. It might say, “Hey do you have time to do a haircut and perm today at 3?” when you are not a cosmetologist or in any way connected with the beauty industry, or “How much to have my brakes checked?” when cars are not your field. Sometimes, the person calls you by someone else’s name, or asks a personal question that is clearly not for you.
You respond with, “I’m sorry, but you have a wrong number,” delete the message, and go on about your day. The person texts you back. You check the phone, expecting them to have simply responded with “I’m sorry,” or “sorry, wrong number.” But this person seems to feel genuinely bad. They not only apologize, they tell you a little bit about their hectic day. You reply by noting that this does sound rough, but they shouldn’t worry, as they did not disrupt your work or interrupt anything important. You brush it off again, thinking that will surely be the end of it.
To your surprise, the person keeps talking to you. They seem like a genuinely nice person. They ask you who it is they bothered, inviting you to introduce yourself. You converse with them for a few minutes, figuring this is either just a stressed out, lonely person or somebody hoping to turn this into a harmless, but funny story for their friends.
Soon, your new friend is telling you all about their adventures investing in cryptocurrency. They would like to know if you would be interested in investing in cryptocurrency too, and are more than happy to help you.
At this point, it may still seem harmless. Even if you have no interest in ever investing in cryptocurrency, it might be interesting to learn a bit more about it, and hear of others’ experiences with something so many people are doing today. And if cryptocurrency is an interest of yours, this seems like a fun way to learn a little more before you do any investing of your own.
You keep in touch with your new friend, swapping casual, friendly messages. They are particularly interested in sharing their new passion, investing in cryptocurrency, with you.
But buried in their chatty “information,” and “coaching” will be their real goal. They will begin to insist that they can help you earn money through cryptocurrency. And you do not even have to do any work. Your new friend can get you started if you will just trust them with your account information. And of course, your account information is all they really wanted all along.
The “wrong number scam” is new, only widely reported in the press over the past year. But it is a blend of two “classic” scams. At its core, this is the same scam as the “fake charge scam,” where the scammer sends you an alert that there has been a charge to an account in your name, or suspicious activity on your account, and you need only to provide them with your account details so they can straighten everything out for you. It is also a “love scam,” in this case, a platonic friendship scam. Just as the scammer in the classic romantic love scam works to convince their target that they are someone who has fallen in love with them, the scammer in the wrong number scam attempts to make their intended victim believe they have made a new platonic friend.
There does not appear to be any malware or spyware attached to this scam, making it easy to completely prevent. When you receive a text from a wrong number, let the person know one time that they have dialed a wrong number. When they apologize, respond with “No problem,” and have no further contact with them. Delete and block any wrong numbers whose owners try to strike up a conversation with you. Don’t be swayed by any endearing or moving life stories the person may share. Platonic friendship scammers can copy and paste complete strangers’ facebook statuses, emails from computers they’ve hacked into, and other online communication just as easily as romance scammers can steal love letters and profile information.
by Jess Szabo originally published on Artist Cafe Utica www.artistcafeutica.com