Just as annoying robocalls have started to decline, robotexts from scammers are dramatically on the rise.
A new report by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund, a consumer watchdog group, has found that spam texts have increased tenfold in the past year as scammers try alternative ways to steal people's identities and personal information.
The group is calling on the Federal Communications Commission to pass proposed rules to require phone companies to block robotexts.
"Robotexts have really exploded," Sally Greenberg, executive director of the National Consumers League, told NBC senior consumer and investigative correspondent Vicky Nguyen on TODAY Wednesday.
"It’s an easy way to get into consumers' cell phones because the data is all out there and very much available for scammers."
The report by U.S. PIRG found that robocalls declined 47% from June 2021 to May 2022 after more phone companies installed robocall-fighting technology. There were 2.1 billion scam robocalls in June 2021, compared to 1.12 billion in May of this year.
However, more than 12 billion spam texts were sent last month, according to data pulled from the spam-blocking app Robokiller. More than 87 billion spam texts were reported last year, a 60% rise from 2020.
"A huge problem is all of our data is subject to being sold to data brokers, and they have no conscience, and they will send it to any scoundrel or scam artist out there," Greenberg said.
Baileigh Miller told Nguyen she almost fell for a spam text after clicking on a link that said she was overdue on a $150 electric bill.
"It took me to what was a website that was believable," she said on TODAY. "I went to enter my information. I was like, I should probably check with my mom, just to verify everything’s good to go.
"And she was like, 'No, I have a receipt where I’ve paid it.' Luckily, I didn’t enter any information or hit 'submit' because that could have definitely went wrong. They could have had all my card information, banking information, and my address as well."
How to avoid being scammed by robotexts
Nguyen shared four tips from experts on how you can protect your personal information against identity thieves and others sending the texts.
- Avoid clicking on any links.
- Check the number sending the message. Scam texts usually come from a number that is 10 digits or longer.
- Don't respond at all. Even responding with "Stop" can allow your data to be at risk.
- Check for misspelled words, which are often used to get around a phone carrier's spam filters.
Nguyen also had guidance from experts if you do end up submitting any personal information to a scammer or fraudulent website.
- Call your bank or credit card provider immediately to tell them about the situation.
- Forward any suspicious messages to the number 7726, or "spam."
- Check your phone's settings to set filters for unknown senders.