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I Replied to a Spam Text — What Should I Do Now?

If you replied to a spam text you could be at risk of identity theft or having your phone hacked. Learn how to stay safe after replying to a spam text.

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      Did You Reply to a Spam Text? You Could Be in Danger

      While shopping on eBay, Tesa Childs suddenly received a text message from what she thought was a company representative asking for her updated banking information. Not wanting to miss out on her purchases, Tesa responded — and then scammers drained her bank account [*].

      Spam texts are taking over America’s phones. According to the latest stats [*]:

      Nearly 85% of all Americans say they’ve received spam or “robotexts” in the past 12 months, with victims losing more than $28 billion to text scams.

      While just receiving a spam text is an annoyance, replying or engaging with one in any way can put you in serious danger of financial fraud, identity theft, or hacking. 

      In this guide, we’ll explain what to do if you’ve replied to a spam text, steps to take to protect your money or identity, and how to recognize and avoid future spam texts.

      {{show-toc}}

      Can You Get Scammed by Replying to a Text?

      The truth is that, yes, it’s possible to get scammed by replying to a text message. 

      Fraudsters send billions of fake text messages every month hoping that a small percentage of people will respond. And their scams are getting harder and harder to spot. Today, scammers impersonate delivery services, government agencies like the IRS and DMV, financial institutions, or even family members via text. 

      The goal of these scam texts is almost always the same — scammers want your money or personal data. They use various tactics that include trying to get you to:

      • Click on a malicious link to a fake website. By far, the majority of spam texts are designed to trick you into clicking on a link. If you do, it will take you to a fake website that steals your personal information and login credentials — for example, a fake login page for your bank.
      • Accidentally install malware on your device. Some malicious links also directly download malware and other viruses onto your phone. This can allow scammers to spy on you, search for sensitive data or photos, or even take over control of your device. 
      Example of a spam text designed to get you to click on a malicious link. Source: Aura team
      • Reply with “STOP” or “NO.” Even a basic response tells scammers that your number is active and that you’re willing to respond to spam messages. If you reply, you’ll start to receive more spam and scam texts and calls. 
      • Call a number listed in the text and disclose your personal information. Some spam texts include a phone number to call to stop a fake payment or deal with a made-up issue. Scammers want to get you on the phone, as it’s easier to convince or pressure you to give up personal information — including your bank account and Social Security number (SSN) — or send them money. 
      • Share two-factor authentication (2FA) or other security codes. Hackers are often after access to your online accounts (banking, email, social media, etc.). If your password was already leaked in a data breach, they may use fake texts to try and steal your 2FA codes and gain access to your accounts. 

      The good news is that just receiving a spam text doesn’t put you in danger — there’s only a risk when you respond or interact with these texts. So, what can happen if you respond to a spam text?

      🚫 Worried about text message scams? Aura's SMS protection will filter unwanted texts and place them into a junk folder. Any suspicious links will also be flagged to keep you from clicking on them. Try Aura free for 14 days.

      Did You Reply or Respond to a Spam Text? Here’s What To Do

      Clicking on a link, replying, or calling a number in a scam text can put you at risk of fraud, identity theft, and more. Here’s how you can protect yourself after responding to a spam text.

      1. If you clicked on a strange or suspicious link
      2. If you were taken to a fake website 
      3. If you gave up banking or other sensitive information
      4. If you called a number back and spoke to a fraudster
      5. If you responded to an “accidental wrong number” text
      6. If you replied with “STOP” or “NO”
      7. If someone posed as your colleague, friend, or family member
      8. If you paid fees for fake services, fines, or lottery “winnings”

      1. If you clicked on a strange or suspicious link

      Clicking on links in scam texts can expose you to malware, spyware, Trojans, and other viruses. Sometimes, these viruses can even download automatically after you’ve clicked on the link in a single SMS message.

      Example of a spam text threatening an automatic charge or fee if you don’t click on a link. Source: Reddit
      Example of a spam text threatening an automatic charge or fee if you don’t click on a link. Source: Reddit

      If you’ve clicked on a link in a spam message, you should assume that your device has been compromised

      What to do if you clicked on a link in a spam text message:

      • Disconnect from your Wi-Fi and/or mobile network. Hackers need an internet connection to access your device. Shutting down your service can block them from accessing your device and sensitive data. 
      • Scan your device for malware and viruses. Once you’re offline, use antivirus software to scan your device for malware and remove any malicious code. 
      • Change your passwords and enable two-factor authentication (2FA). If scammers get access to your phone, they can hack into your accounts. Update all of your passwords as soon as possible, and enable 2FA on any account that will allow it. 
      • Update your device and apps. Many updates include security patches that help protect against new cyberthreats. 

      📚 Related: How To Know If a Website Is Safe

      2. If you were taken to a fake website

      Scam texts often claim that you need to verify information or log in to an account. But these links lead to fake phishing websites designed to collect sensitive data.

      A scam text message claiming to be from PayPal. Source: Reddit

      These websites often look identical to the login pages of popular sites like Amazon, PayPal, or social media platforms. But if you enter your login information, it goes directly to the scammer who uses it to take over your account.

      How to protect yourself from phishing websites:

      • Regain control of your accounts and change your passwords. If you entered login information to a fake website, go to the real page and try to log in. If you’re already locked out of your account, you’ll need to go through the company or service’s official recovery process. 
      • Use Safe Browsing tools to warn you of dangerous sites. These tools can stop you before you enter a potentially dangerous website. For example, Aura will block you from accessing malicious sites before they can do any damage.
      • Check domain names before clicking on links. Look for unusual spellings or domain names that look like they’re trying to copy a well-known brand (for example, “www.walmart–refundsupport.com”). If in doubt, go directly to the company’s official website and check your account.

      📚 Related: The Latest Walmart Scams To Avoid in 2024

      3. If you gave up banking or other sensitive information

      Many scam texts pressure you to give up sensitive information either via text or in follow-up phone calls and emails. This could include personal information that can be used to steal your identity — such as your SSN, home address, or financial information. 

      For example, scammers may claim that you need to pay a small fee to receive a delivery, and request your credit card information or bank account details. 

      Example of a fake text message claiming that you owe a small delivery fee. Source: Aura team

      If you send hackers your financial information, you’re essentially giving them full access to your savings, credit, and finances. 

      What to do if you gave a scammer your financial information:

      • Contact your financial institution immediately. Talk to their fraud department and explain what happened. They’ll close your accounts and cards, and issue you new ones.
      • Freeze your credit with all three bureaus. A credit freeze stops scammers from opening new lines of credit or taking out loans in your name. To freeze your credit, you need to contact each of the three major credit bureaus individually — Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. 
      • Consider signing up for credit and financial account monitoring. Aura’s award-winning identity theft protection solution includes the industry’s fastest and most reliable fraud alerts to warn you if your financial accounts are under attack.

      4. If you called a number back and spoke to a fraudster

      Some text scams will ask you to call back a phone number either to speak with a company representative, cancel a fake order, or get in touch with a family member in trouble. 

      Scammers know it’s much easier to pressure you to act while they have you on the phone. If you call them, they’ll use threats and manipulation to get you to share personal or financial information, or even send them money directly.

      Example of a fake text message claiming to be from the victim’s child.
      Example of a fake text message claiming to be from the victim’s child. Source: Reddit

      The safest practice is to ignore any phone numbers in unsolicited text messages.

      What to do if you’ve called a number in a spam text:

      • Hang up immediately. The longer you stay on the line, the more information the scammer can gather about you. As soon as you suspect fraud, hang up. 
      • Report and block the number. Block the number from contacting you again, and report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Federal Communications Commission (FCC). 
      • Verify any information by calling an official phone number. If you’re worried that the message could be legitimate, contact the company directly by using the phone number or contact information on its official website — not the phone number in the text message or one that you find in a Google search. 

      📚 Related: What Is “Vishing”? How To Identify (and Avoid) Phone Scams

      5. If you responded to an “accidental wrong number” text

      A new scam tactic entails sending “accidental” wrong number text messages. Once you respond, scammers continue messaging you and try to build a relationship with you. After they’ve gained your trust, they’ll ask for money or try to convince you to invest in cryptocurrency or other investment schemes.

      Example of a fake “wrong number” text message scam.
      Example of a fake “wrong number” text message scam. Source: Aura team

      Fraudsters call this the “pig butchering scam” as they “fatten up” victims by allowing them to withdraw small returns before gradually convincing them to invest more and more (and then stealing it all). 

      One woman lost more than $1.6 million in a scam like this [*].

      What to do if you’re talking with someone you met through a “wrong number” text:

      • End the conversation. If you’ve already engaged with a scammer, stop replying and block and report the number.
      • Don’t reply to wrong number texts. Smartphones have made it very difficult to contact a wrong number. Today, nearly all “wrong number” texts are scams.
      • Don’t send money or investments to someone you meet online. If someone you haven’t met in person asks for money, you are dealing with a scammer. 

      Pro tip: If you’ve given money to a cryptocurrency scammer, you can report it to the FBI. The Bureau recently recovered over $112 million in funds linked to pig butchering scams [*].  

      6. If you replied with “STOP” or “NO”

      Scam texts often tell you to reply “STOP” or “NO,” but this won’t opt you out. Instead, it’ll do the opposite: spammers will add your cell phone number to a priority list, and you’ll get more texts and spam calls than before.

      Example of a spam text designed to get you to respond with “HELP” or “STOP.”
      Example of a spam text designed to get you to respond with “HELP” or “STOP.” Source: Reddit

      Even if you don’t hand over personal information or money, the reply lets scammers know you’re a potential target.

      To prevent scammers from knowing your number is active:

      • Ignore unwanted text messages. No matter what the message says, it’s probably a scam.
      • Only opt out to senders you know. You should only opt out to senders to whom you remember giving your information — like a pharmacy or airline. Legitimate marketers must respect your opt-out request.
      • Use third-party apps to block spam. Enable spam protection and call-blocking apps like Truecaller, RoboKiller, TextKiller, and Nomorobo. These can filter unknown senders and block spam texts and telemarketing robocalls.

      📚 Related: How To (Finally) Stop Unwanted Texts on iPhones

      7. If someone posed as your colleague, friend, or family member

      In this scam, you receive a message supposedly from your boss, colleague, friend, or family member. The message claims they’re busy and need an urgent favor — usually it’s a request that you buy gift cards.

      This scam can be harder to detect than most — especially if the scammer is posing as your boss. Scammers often know your name, job title, department, and the name and title of your boss. Sometimes, they even use phone number spoofing to make it look like the text message is coming from your boss.

      The boss scam uses your employer’s real name to trick you.
      The boss scam uses your employer’s real name to trick you. Source: New York Attorney General

      What to do if you receive a text message claiming to be from someone you know:

      • Verify with a phone call. If you think the message is legitimate, contact your boss (or the person the scammer is impersonating) through a trusted method. Don’t rely on your caller ID for an incoming call, as it can be spoofed.
      • Look out for personal numbers. Often, scammers contact your personal number, or claim to be reaching out from your boss’s personal number.
      • If you gave out gift cards, contact the issuer to try and cancel them. Scammers want gift cards because they’re harder to trace and can be treated as cash. Follow these steps if you’ve sent gift card numbers and PINs to a scammer.

      8. If you paid fees for fake services, fines, or lottery “winnings”

      Scammers often pretend you’re the winner of a lottery, sweepstakes, or giveaway — but you need to pay a small fee first. Once you pay the fee, the scammers disappear and you’ll never see your supposed winnings.

      Example of a text message scam claiming you’ve won a prize.
      Example of a text message scam claiming you’ve won a prize. Source: Aura team

      Anyone who asks for money to deliver a prize is a guaranteed scammer, since it’s against federal law to charge for prize winnings.

      How to protect yourself from lottery scams:

      • If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. If someone is claiming to send you money for free or says that your number was “randomly selected,” it’s almost certainly a scam. Scammers often impersonate real lottery winners and share YouTube videos as “proof.” The winner may be real, but the giveaway isn’t.
      • Report fraud to your financial institution. If you’ve given money to a scammer, call your financial institution immediately and file a fraud report.

      How To Tell If You’re Dealing With a Spam Text: 7 Warning Signs

      1. The text doesn’t make sense. Scammers send messages to millions of victims, hoping someone will respond. If the message seems confusing or illogical (such as a fraud notice from a bank you don’t use), it’s probably a scam.
      2. Spelling and grammar errors. Legitimate companies don’t send notifications with grammatical and spelling errors. If you notice these mistakes in the text, be wary — it’s most likely a scam text.
      3. The message has a sense of urgency. Spam messages usually try to get you to act fast. If you find yourself panicking or needing to respond quickly, there’s a good chance it’s a scam.
      4. It comes from an odd number or email address. Legitimate senders use standard 10-digit numbers or six-digit shortcodes. International numbers, email addresses, or any other odd identifiers usually belong to scammers.
      5. It contains a link, or requests sensitive information. Almost any text that asks for financial information or personal data is a scam or smishing attack. If you think the link could be legitimate, don’t click on it. Instead, visit the company’s website directly and check your account.
      6. It’s too good to be true. Be suspicious of messages that say you’ve won a lottery or contest that you haven’t entered. These are most likely scams.
      7. The message tries to intimidate. Threats like mafia hitmen, cartel violence, family member kidnappings, IRS arrests, law enforcement investigations, or blackmail are signs of scams — especially if money will make the problem go away.

      📚 Related: [Solved] How To Check For Viruses on An iPhone

      How To Block and Report Spam Text Messages

      The best thing you can do to avoid falling victim to a text scam is block and report spam messages on your device. Here’s how you can stop spam texts on your iOS or Android mobile device:

      Sign up for an AI-powered spam call and text blocker

      Phone scammers are always coming up with new ways to target victims. The only way to keep up with them is with a spam call and text blocker powered by artificial intelligence.

      Aura's Call Assistant uses AI technology to screen and even answer incoming calls and texts on your behalf to ensure that only legitimate callers and messages get through.

      Learn more about how Aura protects you from spam and scams

      Block spam text numbers on your phone

      You can block a spammer from ever contacting you again. Note that this only prevents calls or texts from the numbers you block — you’ll still get spam from other numbers.

      Here’s what to do:

      • On iPhone: Open the chat conversation and tap the sender information. Tap Info > Block this Caller > Block Contact. You can manage blocked contacts in the Settings app > Messages > Blocked Contacts.
      • On Android: Open the messaging app and long press on the spam text. Tap the three dots in the corner > Block. Select Report spam and tap OK.

      Filter unknown senders to a “junk” folder

      Both Apple and Android phones have options to filter spam messages. These filters will send any message your device doesn’t recognize (or considers spam) to a separate inbox for unknown senders or junk.

      Here’s what to do:

      • On iPhone: Open the Settings app > Messages > Filter Unknown Senders. This will filter all messages from unknown numbers to a separate list.
      • On Android: Open the Messages app and tap on the account icon. Tap on Messages Settings > Spam protection > Enable spam protection. This will warn you of potential spam messages.

      An additional step could be using Aura to filter known spam numbers and scan links in the message for phishing attempts. Once enabled, spam text protection can archive messages into your junk folder.

      📚 Related: How To Block Text Messages From Unknown Numbers

      Report spam texts to your mobile carrier

      You can help protect others by reporting spam texts to your mobile carrier. They may flag the number or even block the spammer from using the network. To report suspicious text messages to any U.S. carrier, forward the message to 7726 (SPAM).

      What happens next depends on your carrier:

      • Verizon will reply with a request for the sender’s number. Once you’ve provided this, you’ll get a confirmation message.
      • T-Mobile will send a confirmation message directly.
      • AT&T will collect sender data automatically and investigate.

      Report the text to the appropriate government agencies

      Reporting suspicious texts to the appropriate authorities can help protect others. It also provides evidence that the government can use to prosecute scammers.

      Here’s where you can report spam and scam texts:

      • The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) protects consumers from deceptive business practices. You can file a report at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.
      • The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulates telemarketing and illegal calls and texts. You can file a report through the agency’s consumer complaint center.
      Take action: Call and text protection are included on all Aura Family plans as of May 2023. These features are available for iOS devices now, with support for Android devices to follow quickly. Try Aura free for 14 days.

      The Bottom Line: Stay Safe by Ignoring Spam Texts

      Just receiving a text message isn’t dangerous. But engaging with it in any way — including clicking, replying, or calling — puts you at risk.

      If you think a message is spam, the best thing you can do is ignore it. But if you do reply or respond in any way, it pays to protect yourself with a digital security solution like Aura.

      Aura’s Safe Browsing tools, antivirus software, and virtual private network (VPN) protect you from dangerous websites and help keep your data safe online. Aura’s award-winning credit and account monitoring can alert you to threats of identity theft and financial fraud. 

      And if the worst should happen, every Aura member is covered for up to $1 million in insurance for eligible losses due to identity theft.

      Protect yourself and your family from online threats. Try Aura free for 14 days.

      Award-winning identity theft protection with AI-powered digital security tools, 24/7 White Glove support, and more. Try Aura for free.

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