Thursday, May 19, 2022

My own phone number is now spam texting me

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Shreya Christina
Shreya has been with for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider team, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.

This morning I received a very blatant spam text offering me “a little gift” for supposedly paying my phone bill. Normally I would groan, roll my eyes and quickly delete something like that, but there was something different about this particular message: it was faked as if it came from my own phone number. As far as my iPhone could tell, it was a legitimate message from me to myself. By typing the sender information, I came to my own business card.

Equally frustrating was that I had no obvious way to report the alarming parody to my carrier, Verizon Wireless. Fake calls and texts are nothing new; most people face a constant deluge of spam calls appearing on caller ID as from a number that resembles their own number. But this was the first time I actually got anything from mine own number. These scammers are getting more and more sophisticated.

Turns out I wasn’t the only one. More than a few customers on Verizon reported to get similar spam of their respective numbers of the past few days – the same for Are MVNO Visible – and several roadside employees of other carriers have also encountered them. I posted an Instagram story about it and got a lot of “same” comments. SMS phishing or ‘smishing’ is on the rise in recent years, but there’s something more disturbing and intrusive about being linked to your own number. It’s all very “the call comes from within.”

The main comment on twitter is confusion and “how?!” Again, this is all spoofing and technological impersonation. It’s trivially easy for spammers to camouflage with any number they dial. My Verizon account is safe and my number has not been hijacked. If you have received the same message, there is no need to panic. Just don’t click that link.

Still, it often feels like the phone companies are losing the battle against scammers. I’m not jealous of having to contend with the sheer amount of spam attacks that come across their networks on a daily basis, but this is getting out of hand. I’ve noticed an increase in general SMS spam over the past few weeks. And as Alex Lanstein noted on Twitter, this particular message contains several phrases — “free message,” “bill being paid,” “gift” — which are believed to be flagged by Verizon’s spam protection systems. And yet it worked. And since it came from me, the text also successfully evaded Apple’s “filter unknown messages” feature.

So what can be done? In addition to offering various spam protection measures, Verizon and other US carriers encourage customers to forward spam messages to SPAM (7726). However, some people have a break from reporting spam “from” their own number. I asked Verizon what would happen in that situation.

If you are very annoyed by spam messages or calls you receive, you can always File a complaint with the FCC about this sort of thing, where “spoking my own number” is a reportable sub-issue.

Other than those options, all you can really do is delete the texts and wait for the next scam tactic that seems like it shouldn’t even be possible. Damn it, scammers. Do better, carriers.

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