VANCOUVER, Washington (KOIN) — If you receive a phone call or text threatening harm to someone you know unless you give them money, police say it’s likely a scam.
Police in Vancouver, Washington, issued a scam alert Tuesday after several people reported receiving phone calls or texts from someone claiming one of their family members or co-workers had been injured and they need to send money – or they would kill the alleged person.
There were no injuries to any family members mentioned in the calls, according to police.
The Federal Trade Commission warns such schemes are not uncommon, with scammers demanding money, or else passwords, account numbers or Social Security numbers. Often, scammers will portray themselves as being affiliated with a bank or business and will say they’re inquiring about your accounts with them.
Spam text messages will also often contain links that can install spyware or malware on your phone, so you should never click links from an unknown number or when you receive such a message out of the blue. The practice has even been dubbed “smishing.”
The FTC says U.S. residents lost $131 million to scam text messages in 2021.
Scammers are also trying out new tricks.
WFLA in Tampa, Florida, reported consumers who say they received text messages from their own phone numbers. The messages alleged to be on behalf of a user’s wireless provider saying their monthly phone bill has been paid and offering a “free gift.”
The Federal Communications Commission says the COVID-19 pandemic also presented an opportunity for scammers to target people in need. As a rule of thumb, you should always be cautious of text messages that are from unidentified numbers or seem out of the ordinary.