Better Business Bureau warns of coronavirus text message scam

Published: Mar. 18, 2020 at 4:41 PM EDT
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A new scam is using the COVID-19 novel coronavirus pandemic to target people through text messages, according to the Better Business Bureau.

Scammers send text messages with a link that encourages people to claim emergency money for groceries due to the current coronavirus outbreak.

They're told to simply tap the link in the message, which is an extremely effective technique, according to experts — SMS message scams have a 209% higher response rate than through phone, email, or Facebook scams, putting millions of people at risk.

If you click the URL in the message telling you to claim your emergency money, you'll be sent to a malicious site where the scammer can then steal information like email addresses, passwords, credit card numbers, bank information, and money.

Due to the nature of mobile browsers, URLs may not be fully displayed, making it more challenging to identify an illegitimate login page, and the scammers count on people filling out information on the page to submit.

Essentially, scammers are using people's legitimate fears about the coronavirus as clickbait to get them to access malicious sites and steal their personal information.

The BBB warns people to be aware of these timely and tech-savvy cons that are masquerading as trustworthy companies and government agencies.

Experts call them "smishing attacks."

To protect yourself from falling victim to these scams, the BBB encourages people to set up the option to filter and block messages from unknown senders or spam on their



A wireless provider can also have tools or services to block calls and text messages, the BBB said.

Mobile users can also download a call-blocking app for your iPhone or Android phones.

If you do fall victim to this type of text message scam the BBB recommends taking the following steps:

  • Contact your banking institutions to report fraud and cancel credit cards used for all transactions or connected to the mobile device
  • Inform your cell phone carrier of the fraudulent number and incident
  • Block the phone number from your phone
  • Change your passwords on sensitive apps such as online banking, social media, and any other space with personal information stored

If you are receiving unwanted text messages, there are three ways to report it, according to the BBB: