We may be living in strange times, but that text message you received last week from yourself probably didn’t pass the smell test for most cybersecurity professionals.

In case you missed it, a large number of Verizon customers got texts from their own phone numbers over the last few weeks. The compelling message? It’s a heads up that your March bill was paid, and a link for you to claim a “free gift.” Obviously, the gift likely anything but free.

SMS scams – or smishing – is costly for those who fall victim – in 2020, Americans lost $86 million on text message scams, according to the Federal Trade Commission and the AARP. The average individual loss was $800 in 2020 (that’s roughly $880 in 2022 dollars).

“As part of a recent fraud scheme, bad actors have been sending text messages to some Verizon customers which appear to come from the customers’ own number. Our company has significantly curtailed this current activity, but virtually all wireless providers have faced similar fraudulent activity in recent months,” Verizon said in a statement sent to Fox News.

Verzion doesn’t seem to think the Russians are behind this one, according to the same statement, where they also mentioned that they’re working closely with law enforcement to remedy the issue. That said, the author of this article from The Verge reported that the link in the message seemed to point back to a  Russian state TV network.

This seems to be a result of those robocalls going unanswered, thanks to aggressive phone spam filters offered by mobile carriers, according to Verizon. It’s not so easy to block your own number from spamming you.

“Just as Verizon continues to combat robocalls on behalf of our customers — 20 billion blocked to date — we are working diligently to crack down on pesky spam texts and have put a number of tools in place to prevent them from ever reaching you,” the company said in a press release.

If you’re a Verizon customer tackling these spam texts, they tell you not to delete it (full disclosure: this author deleted it immediately). If you get it, copy the message and text it to “SPAM” (that’s #7726 on your touchtone).

For now, the best move would be to follow the sage advice from AARP:

  1. Don’t respond – not even with a STOP.
  2. Don’t click links and don’t open attachments.
  3. Filter and block spammy messages.

Also, don’t forget to ask yourself why you’d be texting yourself with a free gift – instead, treat yourself to the joy of outsmarting yet another cyber criminal.

Note to Self: Smishing Schemes Are on the R …

Hot Topics in Cybersecurity Posted by Jen Greco on Apr 4, 2022

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