Evolution of Phone Scams: Robotexts Take Center Stage
With the decline of bothersome automated telemarketing calls, a new adversary has emerged in the realm of phone scams: robotexts. However, their elusive nature makes it challenging to quantify their prevalence on mobile devices and identify their origins.
Damon McCoy, an associate professor of computer science and engineering at New York University, has observed a surge in text-based scams. He notes that while phones now offer features to screen unknown calls, texts persist as a more persistent method.
So, why the decline in robocalls?
According to the National Do Not Call Registry, there were around 56,000 fewer robocalls in June 2023 compared to June 2022. Efforts have been made to combat phone scams, including legislation proposed by Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand to enhance consumer protection.
Rajendran Murthy, an associate professor at Saunders College of Business at the Rochester Institute of Technology, emphasizes that as robocalls diminish, phone scams continue to evolve.
Why are robotexts so challenging?
The complexity arises from the difficulty of tracking and regulating them. Unlike calls, consumers are less cautious about opening texts, creating distinct challenges for tackling text-based scams.
With the ability to send millions of texts in the time of a single call, managing and gathering data becomes overwhelming. Existing protections like the Telephone Consumer Protection Act and the National Do Not Call Registry struggle to keep up, especially against international scammers exploiting jurisdictional gaps.
Murthy highlights the challenge of enforcement when scammers operate overseas, limiting legal recourse. Moreover, regulations often apply only when a sale is involved, further complicating the issue.
The Cat-and-Mouse Game
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) introduced rules in March to block texts from improbable numbers, aiming to curb robotexts. Yet, overseas operations pose a challenge to enforcement.
McCoy likens the situation to a cat-and-mouse game, where scammers adapt to evade measures. Solutions like Robokiller, TrueCaller, and phone companies’ scam identification help but can’t fully eradicate the problem due to its global nature.
Fighting Back Against Robocalls and Robotexts
Experts recommend staying calm and cautious. Avoid responding to potential robocalls, as that confirms your number’s validity. Applications like Robokiller and TrueCaller, along with phone companies’ scam filters, can help.
Services from credit card companies assist in removing personal information from public databases. Registering for the Do Not Call (DNC) registry and reporting suspicious calls and texts as spam are also advised.
To report texting scams, forward texts to 7726 or “SPAM,” and consider filing complaints with the FCC or Federal Trade Commission. Combat scams by blocking calls, hanging up on scammers, not sharing sensitive info via text, and scrutinizing misspellings or unusual addresses in texts.