What's important to know

Protect your personal information from identity theft, and learn what to do if you think someone is using your identity, or download an Identity Theft tip sheet for ways to protect your information.

Overview

A text scam is any type of unsolicited electronic message that attempts to obtain personal information about your identity, online accounts, or money.

A major problem with text scams is how easy it is to appear to be someone else over text. The technology allows scammers to pretend to be a bank, an email provider or another legitimate company simply by using their name in the text message.

Phishing scams

Phishing scams are attempts to obtain usernames, passwords, and credit card details for malicious reasons by pretending to be a trustworthy, legitimate business.

In phishing scams, the texts or emails appear to be from well-known companies, social websites, banks, online payment processors or IT administrators and are commonly used to lure unsuspecting victims.

  • phishing emails may also contain links to websites that are infected with malicious software that can damage your computer or device

iCloud scams

One of the more recent scams, this ploy aims to trick people into giving up their Apple account password and, from there, hackers can easily access your bank account details, your location and / or other information.

Mystery shopper

This fraud uses text messages, email messages and free online classified websites such Kijiji, Craigslist, Monster and Workopolis to recruit potential victims.

Consumers answer a text message ad to become a mystery shopper. The fake employer then sends a letter with shopping tasks to be completed at a store by the potential mystery shopper.

The “employer” encloses a cheque with the letter to assist with the purchase of goods to fulfil the shopping.

The employee is told to deposit the cheque and keep a portion of the money as payment.

The remaining funds are to be used to send a wire transfer at a money service business like Western Union or MoneyGram to test the procedure and customer service skills.

Eventually, the cheque is returned as counterfeit and the “employee” is accountable to pay for the funds that were wired, typically in the range of $900 to $1,500.

Travel-related scams

A potential victim receives an email or text from a well-known travel company such as Expedia, Air Canada or WestJet advising the individual they’ve won a vacation, they’re a preferred customer and / or have been awarded a credit or discount, if booked immediately.

When the victim responds to the communication, they are asked for a credit card number to pay for fees like taxes to obtain the prize they’ve supposedly won.

Prize-related scams

A victim receives a text or email notifying that they’re the winner of a lottery or sweepstakes prize. However, prior to receiving winnings, the victim must pay an upfront fee. No winnings are ever received.

Distinguish the difference

It's common to receive legitimate text messages from legitimate companies that are making legitimate offers for their products or services:

  • a common example is a text message from your cellular provider offering deals on data plans or new smartphones

The most important thing to remember is that responsible companies will never ask you to reply to a message with your personal or banking information, or tell you to click on a link.

You should never enter your personal or banking information into a text message, or onto any unverified website. If you need to provide information on a website, be sure it is a website that has https//: in its URL or internet address.

Furthermore, if you are unsure of whether a particular text message is legitimate, your best move is to phone the sender to confirm the authenticity of the message before providing any information or responding.

Economic impacts of text scams

On an individual basis, people typically lose between $1,800 to $4,500 in these various scams.

Limit potential damage

If you have fallen victim to a text scam or provided information you shouldn’t have, it’s important to act quickly to limit any potential damage.

For instance, contact your financial institution immediately and the credit bureau to ensure they don’t give out your contact or credit card information.

Also, you should report the scam to your local police department and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

Text scam protection

Fraudulent schemes are often done over international borders, making it more difficult for police departments to identify and find the source of the scams.

Although text scams are an illegal and fraudulent activity, the best protection against a scam is being educated about the different types of information scammers are trying to collect. With this knowledge, you can be more aware of what to watch out for and be less likely to give out personal, banking and other sensitive information.

Ask questions

Find out why someone is texting you asking for information and verify the identity of the person requesting the information:

  • get phone numbers and find out if it is the same number if you contacted the company directly

Please remember that if you are notified via a text message about a prize you have won, confirm with the actual source independently and do not click on any links or respond to the message.

Also, never share personal information including credit card numbers via text messages:

  • you should never have to pay an upfront fee to claim a prize

Contact

To connect with the Consumer Contact Centre:

Hours: 8:15 am to 4:30 pm (open Monday to Friday, closed statutory holidays)
Toll free: 1-877-427-4088

To connect with Consumer Investigations:

Email: ciu.north@gov.ab.ca (north of Red Deer)
Email: ciu.south@gov.ab.ca (Red Deer and south)