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BBB Alert: That's not your boss texting

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BBB Scam Alert: That’s not your boss texting

“Smishing” Text Scams on the Rise

Rockford, IL – February 22, 2022
You may be used to getting text messages and emails from your boss, which is why a new texting scam is so effective.

“Scammers find out where you work and pose as the CEO or other executive,” says Dennis Horton, director of the Rockford Regional Office of the Better Business Bureau. “Be on guard and don’t share money or information – be it your own or your company’s.”

Everyone is a target. “Con artists even tried the scam on the BBB,” notes Horton. “We had processes in place to prevent the scammer from being successful.”

How the scam works
You receive a text from a number you don’t recognize, claiming to be from your boss. The sender knows your name, where you work, and your boss’s name. It seems so real. The text message might read something like this: “Hi Chris, I’m tied up in a conference call right now but let me know if you get this text. Thanks [your boss’ name].”

If you reply that you received the text, you’ll be asked to do a quick task. This could be purchasing gift cards for a client or wiring funds to another business. In some cases, the scammer may ask you to send personal information to someone, often giving you a plausible reason to carry out the request.

No matter how believable the reason sounds, always double-check before taking any action. Once you send the money, gift cards, or information, it will be in the hands of a con artist.

BB tips to protect yourself from impostor scams
  •  Don’t trust unsolicited messages from unknown numbers. If your boss regularly communicates with you via text message, save their number in your contact list. Don’t respond to potential impersonators reaching out from a different number.
  • Be wary of unusual requests. If your boss has never asked you to buy gift cards, think twice, even if the request comes from a number you’ve saved. Scammers can potentially clone phone numbers and hijack your boss’s number to target employees.
  • Double-check with your boss personally. If a request comes from an unknown number or doesn’t sound right, call or email your boss first, using their accurate contact information, rather than replying to the message. It’s better to double-check than to rush into a scam. Plus, your boss will want to know if they are being impersonated to warn their other employees.
  • If you suspect a scam, don’t reply. If you’re relatively sure a scammer has contacted you, don’t reply to the text message. Replying lets scammers know they have an active phone number and could leave you vulnerable to future attacks. Instead, block the number and delete the message.
This "Quick" Favor is a Clever Scam
BBB is alerting consumers about another new scam. If a friend asks for a favor, you do it, no questions asked. Right? Time to rethink that policy. In this latest con, a scammer poses as a friend or family member emailing you for a simple favor.

“The scam works because the email is so convincing,” says Horton. “The message looks harmless and casual—like something a friend might write.”

For example, one version reads: “Hi, how are things going with you? Are you busy? I need a quick favor.” The message even ends with “Sent from my iPhone.”

While some scammers are trying to make you click on dangerous links, others are using it as a ruse to get you to send them money in the form of gift cards.

Concerned about your friend, you reply and ask for more details. The “friend” quickly responds that they are trying to buy a gift card for their niece’s birthday. However, they are traveling and having trouble purchasing the card online. “Could you get it from any local grocery store around you?” reads the email. “I’ll pay you back as soon as I am back.”

The request sounds reasonable. But if you do buy the gift card, your “friend” will ask you to share the card’s PIN and/or send a photo of the back of the card. Unfortunately, you are essentially handing money to the scammer by doing this. Gift cards do not have the same protections as credit or debit cards.

For more information Read the BBB’s tips on how to spot fake text messages. If you’ve spotted a scam, whether or not you fell victim, report it at BBB.org/ScamTracker. Your report helps expose scammer tactics and boost consumer awareness. Check out BBB.org or follow us @ChicagoBBB on social media.
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About BBB:
BBB of Chicago and Northern Illinois is a nonprofit organization that has served both consumers and trustworthy businesses for over 95 years and is a part of the IABBB. We help protect consumers from scams and provide a free database for consumers to see business ratings and reviews to find businesses they can trust. We connect consumers with businesses they can trust. The International Association of Better Business Bureaus (IABBB) is the network hub for BBBs in the US, Canada and Mexico. Like BBBs, IABBB is dedicated to fostering honest and responsive relationships between businesses and consumers -- instilling consumer confidence and advancing a trustworthy marketplace for all. Please visit BBB.org for more information
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