Consumer News: When text messages are dangerous

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — In consumer news, I’m taking a look at a text message package scam that has been sweeping across the country during the pandemic.

Because we’re all ordering so much online, I thought it really important to remind you about the text message package scam.

According to BeenVerified, a service that performs background checks, this year it received more complaints about that scam than any other. Here’s how it works. You get a text message saying you missed a package and it asks you to click on a link. And if you do, that spells trouble.

The text message looks legitimate. It may even begin with your name followed by a tracking number and a link. Experts at BeenVerified used a secured VPN, a virtual private network, to illustrate what can happen when you click on the link.

In the example given to me, the link takes you to a page with the official USPS logo and asks you to click on the button to confirm.

That takes you to a very convincing looking site that features a picture of your alleged package along with a tracking number. It could easily fool even the savviest consumer. After clicking on a button to allegedly track your order, animation appears which looks as though the system is actually tracking your order. It then indicates the order has been found and you’re being sent an iPhone 12 Pro. It then indicates the shipping cost is only a dollar.

Then the scam asks you to schedule delivery. It takes you through a number of pages until you get to a screen which asks for your delivery information. This is the phishing part of the scheme where the scammer collects your name, home address and email address.

You immediately notice the large print that says you’re getting the newest iPhone which is a thousand dollar value. The scam indicates all you have to pay is one dollar for shipping. But when you enter your credit card information, you’ve been duped.

What most consumers probably don’t notice is the fine print that indicates you will get the iPhone with a five-day free trial of Briananow. It’s an expensive subscription service based in Cyprus that is likely very difficult to cancel.

And if you read the terms and conditions, you find out that you likely won’t get that iPhone. Instead, you’ve unknowingly entered a sweepstakes contest.

BeenVerified supplied other examples of expensive subscriptions that victims have been conned into signing up for. One charges almost $50 a month. Another charges almost $100 a month after that so-called free trial period.

It’s important to note that the folks with BeenVerified were able to show me what happens when you click on the link because they used a secured VPN. You should never click on a link from a source you don’t know. Some con you into signing up for expensive subscriptions; others are phishing schemes or they unleash malware on your device.

The federal Cybersecurity Infrastructure & Security Agency has more information to help you safely shop online.