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Have you received a text from a wrong number? It could be a scam

Some scammers pretend to have the wrong number to get you to respond. That’s why it’s best to play it safe and ignore texts from strangers.

Have you recently received text messages that appear to be from someone with the wrong phone number? Some social media users have wondered if there has been an unusual uptick in these kinds of text messages.

Some people have reported receiving text messages appearing to be directed to veterinarians or someone involved in a relationship. The texts often begin by referring to the recipient by the wrong name and asking a question. The similarities between text messages different people have received have some on the receiving end wondering if the seemingly innocent texts could be a part of a scam.

THE QUESTION

Are scammers posing as people who are texting the wrong number?

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

This is true.

Yes, some scammers are posing as people who have texted the wrong number. Experts recommend you don’t respond to texts from strangers — if nothing else, a scammer will know your phone number is active when you reply.

WHAT WE FOUND

These widespread wrong number text messages typically come in two formats. The first version appears to be some kind of follow-up to an in-person meeting or dating app match, while the other version looks like a customer reaching out to some kind of professional.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) warned about a romance scam disguised as a text to a wrong number back in March. The scam begins with a text message talking about a date or Tinder match, and if the victim replies — even to tell the texter they have the wrong number — the scammer continues the conversation and sends lewd photos to the victim in an attempt to get the victim to join an adult dating site and provide their credit card information to see more.

The city of Apache Junction, Arizona warned in February that the scammer may also try to carry on the conversation for a few days to extract personal and intimate information which can be used later to manipulate the target into giving the scammer money.

The first piece of advice the BBB gives for avoiding these kinds of scams is to simply ignore texts from strangers. 

“If you receive a text from someone you don’t know, simply don’t reply,” the BBB said in its warning. “It’s the safest route. If you engage with a scammer, even briefly, they will mark your number as active and you could receive even more shady texts in the future.”

That advice can also be applied to other text messages that look like they were sent to the wrong number.

A Federal Communications Commission (FCC) spokesperson told VERIFY that the FCC cannot confirm text messages asking about a veterinarian or other professional are from scammers, but warned people to be wary about responding to texts from unknown numbers.

The Office of New York Attorney General Letitia James says that a reply to a scam message will authenticate the sending phone number as an active phone, which will, in turn, lead to more unwanted messages.

It’s a good idea to research an unknown phone number online, James’ office says. If the phone number is a scammer’s, James’ office says it’s best for the person who received the text to report it to their phone carrier.

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