Every single time I get on a stage and present a security awareness training program, someone desperately asks me how to stop all the scammy text messages. My response is the same for everybody; You can’t. What you can do is play the Whac-a-Mole game and continually mark them as spam and block them. That’s it. It’s just an annoyance, like mosquitoes.
There are a few things that you can, and should do… straight from Apple:
Block messages from a specific person or phone number on an iPhone
When you block a specific contact or phone number, messages from that person or number aren’t delivered. (The person sending the message doesn’t know that their message was blocked.)
1. Open the Messages app on your iPhone.
2. In a Messages conversation, tap the name or number at the top of the conversation.
3. Tap Info, scroll down, then tap Block this Caller.
Most of us are receiving spammy scammy text messages on a regular basis. These text messages pose as somebody who we are supposed to know who lost their phone or someone who supposedly is our friend asking us out to lunch or some other request designed to engage us in a conversation.
The texts themselves serve a few different purposes for the scammers. The impetus for all of them is some form of fraud. This will include a romance scam where they engage you and eventually it leads to a crypto scam, called “pig butchering”. Weird name, but very lucrative for the bad guys.
Another is so they can create Google Voice accounts and compromise your Gmail and Google account. In this scam, the scammer approaches sellers on Facebook Marketplace and pretends to be interested in something you’re selling. They ask for your phone number to discuss the purchase. Then scammer uses the victim’s phone number to create or take over a Google Voice account by convincing you to fork over any form of two factor authentication alert you might receive on your device during the transaction.
Many of the scams involved compromising your phone number so they can be used for verification on various websites.
The verification stage required for opening new online accounts is usually the one thing internet users dread the most. It can be a pain in the neck, and most people would rather forget the process altogether.
However, the reason why many sites force their users to verify their identity is to safeguard their details and for the safety of all legitimate account holders on their platform. Despite these efforts, it seems scammers have found a way to bypass the security measures that have been put in place.
There are services, such as 5Sim, that allow users to rent a phone number specifically for use in the SMS verification process. What’s worse is that these fraudulent phone numbers are available for just a few pennies!
Sites, such as Instagram, Amazon, and Discord, use SMS verification to prevent people from creating bogus accounts which are difficult to trace. How it works is that, when a user tries to open a new account, an SMS will be sent to their phone number and they have to verify that they have received it before being allowed to continue.
This simple but effective method has worked quite well for a long time now. That is until scammers found a way around it, using large-scale, automated services, such as 5Sim, that lease out phone numbers.
In a post shared via its website, 5Sim said that users who do not want to use their personal numbers for SMS verification when registering an account can use a phone number from 5Sim.
They said all that is needed is an internet connection, which means the process works even without a SIM card placed inside the phone. Users can even select a phone number from any part of the world.
In another interview on VICE, an employee of another website, Discord, said they were also aware of the existence of companies, such as 5Sim. The spokesperson went on to say that they try to block such accounts whenever they identify them.
Discord, like many other sites, requires a valid phone number for SMS verification, instead of VoIP numbers. This is probably an attempt to reduce the incidents of fake accounts. However, according to 5Sim, they provide users with ordinary numbers.
5Sim did say that its customers are not allowed to use their phone numbers for any illegal activity, or any actions that might cause harm to third parties or to the service. AhmOkYaAllRightyThen!
It is not clear how far 5Sim goes in ensuring that its customers adhere to these regulations, or whether it does indeed impose the restrictions on accounts in cases where fraudulent activities are suspected. In the meantime, though, scammers have a guaranteed way to bypass a lot of very important safety precautions.
For you, just knowing what’s happening in the background, understanding of the various scams, knowing there are a few things that can be done in addition to the game of whack-a-mole. The key here is to keep paying attention. Don’t let anyone CONvince you otherwise.