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Text scams

Text scams

A text scam is any type of unsolicited message that comes on your smartphone and attempts to dupe you into giving up personal information about your identity, online accounts, or money. 

One of the major problems 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 e-mail provider or any other legitimate company simply by using their name in the text message and send out to tens or hundreds of thousands of people simultaneously.

What’s important to know

You can download a tipsheet about Identify Theft from the Service Alberta website. There are a number of other resources on the website to assist consumers in identifying scams and learning more about fraud. Click here to find out more.


Common examples of text scams

Phishing scams

  • Phishing scams are attempts to obtain sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details for malicious reasons by pretending to be a trustworthy, legitimate business.
  • In phishing scams the texts or e-mails 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.
  • These aim to trick people into giving up the password that they use to get into their Apple account – and, from there hackers can easily access your bank account details, your location and other information.


Mystery Shopper

Uses text messages, e-mail 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 “employer” sends a letter with shopping tasks to be completed at a store by the “employee.”
  • 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 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. 
  • Payments range from $900-$1,500.


Travel-related scams

  • A consumer 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.  


How do I distinguish a text scam from a legitimate text?

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

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’s a website that has “https//:” in its URL or Internet address.

Furthermore, if you’re unsure of whether a particular text message is from your bank, your best move is to call them 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 and $4,500 in these scams.


Steps to take if you’ve fallen victim to a text scam

If you have fallen victim to a text scam or sent 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.


Protections for consumers against text scams

Often these scams are done over international borders making it more difficult for police forces to identify and find the source of the scams. 

Although text scams are an illegal and fraudulent activity, the best protection against scams is being educated about the different types of information that scammers are trying to collect. With this knowledge, you can be more aware of what to watch out for and will be less likely to inadvertently give out personal, banking and other sensitive information. Ask questions about why someone is texting you asking for the information and verify the identity of the person requesting the information first. 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. Remember that you should never have to pay an upfront fee to claim a prize.