Imposter Scams: Protecting Your Phone Number from Scammers

Feb 27, 2024 | Scam Calls | 0 comments

Scammers are continually improving their methods to trick victims. Among these tactics, text message scams have come up as a particularly popular method due to the growing use of mobile phones by people of various generations. 

A common strategy used by scammers is to pretend to be someone familiar to you, such as your boss, a friend, or even your child. This strategy has notably led to imposter scams ranking as the second-highest category of reported fraud in 2023, with reported losses reaching $2.7 billion, as per the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

This brings up a key question: How do scammers steal phone numbers and pose as someone familiar? In this blog, we’ll talk about imposter scam texts, how to spot fake text messages and the actions you can take to keep yourself out of scammers’ reach.

How Do Scammers Steal Phone Numbers?

Scammers steal phone numbers for multiple reasons: they want to harass you, steal your identity, infiltrate your online accounts, and finally, get your money. But how exactly do they manage to steal your number?

  • Social media profiles: Many online platforms and services require your phone number when signing up. Without strict privacy settings, your phone number can become publicly available, making it easy pickings for scammers.
  • Data broker lists: These companies gather and sell personal information, such as phone numbers and email addresses. Scammers can purchase your number from these lists to contact you directly.
  • The Dark Web: This is a hidden part of the internet where cybercriminals trade in stolen and illegally obtained data. Here, scammers can buy your phone number along with other personal information.
  • Target lists: If you’ve interacted with phone scams before, your details may end up on a “target list” that scammers share and sell among themselves, marking you as a potential victim of future scams.
  • Shoulder surfing: A more direct approach where scammers watch you enter your phone number on a device. This strategy requires the scammer to be physically close to you.
  • Autodialers: Sometimes, scammers don’t need to know your number beforehand. They use autodialers to generate and call random numbers. Answering such a call can lead to an immediate scam attempt.
Scammers searching information

What Can Scammers Do With Your Phone Number?

Your cell phone is more than a tool to communicate with others, it’s a central for personal data like photos, emails, and account passwords. Because of this, your phone number becomes a target for scammers trying to access your email, bank accounts, and personal financial information, including your cryptocurrency wallet.

One of the most popular and harmful activities scammers engage in with your phone number is impersonating you to ask for money, known as “Imposter Scams”. 

Imposter Scams

These scams involve the scammer pretending to be someone you trust—a family member, a friend, or your boss—to trick you or someone you know into sending money

Imposter scams are a significant problem, ranking as the second most reported type of fraud in the United States. In 2023, there were 853,935 complaints, resulting in about 1 of 5 victims reporting financial losses, with a median loss of $800, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) report.

Hi, Mom/Hi, Dad Scam

A popular form of imposter scam is the “Hi Mom/Hi Dad Scam”. Scammers, pretending to be your child or a close family member, send messages from an unknown number, claiming they’ve lost their phone and urgently need financial help. Examples of such messages include:

  • “Hey Mom, got a new number. Can you save it and send me a WhatsApp when you see this?”
  • “Dad, I’m in a bit of trouble. Lost my phone and could use some cash. Text me back on this number?”
  • Mom, so silly of me – dropped my phone in water, and it’s ruined. I’m on a friend’s phone right now. Can you help out? WhatsApp me back, please”

After initial contact, the scammer typically asks for money or for help in making a payment:

  • “Need to buy a new phone – could you send some cash over with this link? Swear I’ll pay you back by next week.”
  • “Got a debt to settle but haven’t got my banking app on this phone. Mind sending me the code you get on your phone?”

Sometimes, the scam also occurs when a scammer hacks someone’s instant messaging account, having access to their contacts and sending the request directly from the hacked account. This makes it appear as if the message is coming from a known number; while the genuine account of a friend is real, the message is from a scammer.

Known as smishing scams, these fraudulent activities take advantage of messaging platforms like WhatsApp and iMessage, where there’s a common idea that messages can only come from known contacts, making individuals more likely to trust and respond.

Typing on the cell phone

CEO Fraud

CEO Fraud” is another form where the scammer, pretending to be a company executive, sends urgent messages for money transfers or personal information. The informal and direct nature of a text message masks the scam, making use of the recipient’s respect for authority and a desire to comply with their employer’s supposed demands.

Both cases typically create a desperate need for quick action, employing emotional tactics to manipulate and pressure the victim into responding right away. These scams highlight the need for vigilance and caution, even when messages seem to be coming from people you know.

How To Recognize Imposter Scam Texts

Identifying imposter scam texts can be challenging due to the level of detail and creativity of fake messages. Scammers use methods like phone number spoofing and using fake information to convince you to trust and interact with their messages. Here’s how to recognize them:

Suspicious Sender Information

Always check the sender’s phone number for strange patterns. Be cautious of:

  • Number irregularities: Numbers with unusual patterns or repeated digits could be a red flag, i.e.,1234567890 or 9999999999.
  • Alphanumeric senders: Messages from senders like “AMAZ0N” might seem legitimate but could be a scam.
  • Foreign country codes: Unexpected messages from international numbers should raise suspicion.

Suspicious Message Content

The content and presentation of the message can provide clues:

  • Urgent tone: Scammers often create a sense of urgency to get quick action.
  • Poor spelling, grammar, or formatting: Errors or inconsistent styling might indicate a scam.
  • Missing information: For instance, a message claiming to be from your child but not signed with their name is a cause for suspicion.
  • Creative explanations for unexpected events: Such as a new phone number due to dropping the phone in water.

Suspicious Behavioral Signs

Certain requests or instructions can be warning signs:

  • Redirect to messaging apps: A request to continue the conversation on platforms like WhatsApp can be a setup for a scam.
  • Unusual communication style: Differences from the usual tone, language, or style of the person they’re impersonating could indicate fraud. i.e., a CEO using an unusual tone with an employer. 
  • Requests for confidentiality or actions after business hours: These tactics aim to reduce the chances of the scam being uncovered.
Warning before typing infomation

How To Protect Yourself From Imposter Scams

To protect yourself from imposter scams, especially if you’re involved in the cryptocurrency space, it’s crucial to be careful of the information you share online. Scammers are searching for personal details on platforms like social media and public forums to make convincing fake text attacks. 

Here’s how you can improve your defenses:

  • Limit Public Information: Be cautious about the amount of personally identifiable information you share on social media and dating apps. Limit yourself from posting your phone number or email address where it can be easily accessed by anyone browsing your profile.
  • Cryptocurrency Discretion: Given the potential of cryptocurrency for scammers, it’s wise to avoid openly sharing your investments or holdings on social media platforms. This also puts you at risk of attracting scammer’s attention.
  • Adjust Privacy Settings: Ensure your social media accounts are set to private, allowing only friends and family access to your personal feed. This simple step can significantly reduce the risk of your information being stolen.
  • Two-Factor Authentication (2FA): Activate 2FA on all accounts that hold sensitive information, such as online banking, email, and any platforms where you manage cryptocurrency. 

Conclusion

As phone scams grow more complex, protecting your identity and finances is crucial. Be proactive: keep your phone number private, limit its online sharing, and improve account security with two-factor authentication (2FA) and strong passwords to avoid scammers.

Beyond that, playing an active role in combating imposter scams is necessary. Reporting these crimes to the Cryptoscam Defense Network (CDN) can make a significant difference. By sharing your experiences and data like the scammer’s contact information, you contribute valuable insights that can help others avoid similar pitfalls.

We Want to Hear From You!

The fight against cryptocurrency scams is a community effort, and your insights are invaluable. Have you encountered a scam, or do you have questions about navigating the complex world of digital currency? Maybe you have suggestions or want to share your story to help others. Whatever your experience, we’re here to listen and support you.

Reach out to us at hello@cryptoscamdefensenetwork.com. Share your stories, ask questions, or make comments. Your voice is crucial to building a resilient and informed community. Together, we can improve our defenses and promote a safer digital space for all.

Be a part of the change. Your story matters.