COLORADO SPRINGS — Have you ever received a text message from someone you don't know that doesn't seem like it was intended for you? Most people would text back and tell them it's the wrong number, but News5 learned you could be playing right into the hands of fraudsters.
Recently we told you about cell phone technology that's helping to crackdown on robocalls, but as a result fraudsters are now shifting their efforts to scam text messages. They might seem innocent, but interacting with one of these texts could have serious consequences.
"I mean when you look at the statistics that there's an average of 7 to 10 billion robotexts a month that is extremely disturbing," said CSU Global's "Dr. Fraud" J. Michael Skiba.
One of these unsolicited text messages seems innocent at the start.
You'll get a random text from someone you don't know to someone you don't know and it appears like the person texting is trying to meet up with someone from a dating app or website.
Most people will consider texting back saying something similar to "Sorry, wrong number" or "This isn't the person you're looking for". That's when the scammer launches the attack, sending a picture posing as a young woman and trying to start a conversation.
From there, the scammer hopes at the very least you'll give up information and ultimately wants you to send pictures or video back of yourself that could be compromising.
"There are things at risk in these types of scams and it's not only financial it's also reputation damage and this is how they are using leverage, the scammers," said Skiba.
And if you don't pay up, those private pictures or videos you sent are going to be shared.
"They might circulate that to friends, family, coworkers, your employer. So this could have damaging effects. This can affect your personal life, your professional life," said Skiba.
What starts as a simple "wrong number text" can have devastating results.
"You don't have to be out there on a dating site to be contacted by one of these folks," Mark Fetterhoff of AARP Colorado told News5.
He's seeing these types of scams impacting people way too often in our state.
"We've talked to people who have gotten into way too much hot water of all ages. It doesn't matter what age you are. They are out there and they are lurking," said Fetterhoff.
Unfortunately, fraud trends show more texts like this are likely on the way.
"We usually see a lot of these romance related scams spike around the holidays which are coming," said Skiba.
Here are some expert tips from the Better Business Bureau on how to avoid these "wong number text" scams:
Ignore texts from strangers
If you engage, they will mark your number as active and you could receive even more shady texts in the future.
Block the phone numbers
To prevent scammers from contacting you from that number again.
Never send photos, videos, or sensitive information
Especially to someone you don't know and have never met in person.
You can always reach out to us at News5 investigates with questions or to report a scam you think folks should know about.