DENVER — It's a circumstance that would confuse many — you get a text from a number that looks just like your own, but you didn't send it and you don't know who did. Tech experts say it's one way to steal your identity.
"The text says, "Missing you, Archer, think you could squeeze little old Monica into your schedule,"" said Tyler Grimes, reading a text message from his phone.
On Wednesday, Grimes was alerted to the message midday. He was caught off-guard because the message was sent from a number only a few digits different than his own.
He replied, "wrong number," to the sender, and the messages continued.
Grimes isn't the first to receive this type of texting scam. At least six Denver7 employees, who all use Verizon, received spam texts on Wednesday that appeared to come from their own cellphone number or one very similar. Some of the texts included pornographic images.
Steve Beaty, a professor of computer sciences at MSU Denver, called the circumstances "smishing" at its finest. Smishing is simply when bad actors try to steal your data or money through text message, according to the professor.
Beaty says if users reply to the texts, they'll eventually be asked to click on an outside link and provide personal information.
"The scandalous photos, again, are one of these things that up our emotions, and that's what they're after is to stop us from thinking and start us to clicking," he said.
This evening, Verizon acknowledged the issue with this statement:
"Verizon has blocked the source of the recent text messaging scheme in which bad actors were sending fraudulent text messages to Verizon customers. In this case, the text messages sent appeared to come from the recipient's own number. However, it's important to keep in mind that attempted fraud using SMS spam is an issue that's been impacting virtually all wireless providers in recent months. We are actively working with others in our industry and with U.S. Law Enforcement as part of an investigation aimed at preventing spam messages as a type of fraud, and that work continues. On behalf of our customers, we're committed to stopping these fraudulent and illegal activities at the source. In addition, in this most recent incident, we have no indication of Russian involvement or that any of our customers' phones were compromised."
A spokesperson for AT&T says they had not experienced this disruption, saying, "We use patented, automated protections to help block spam texts. Spam can be cyclical, but we’ve seen a recent decline in spam texts on our network as we continuously strengthen our defenses.”
Beaty says if someone does fall victim to the text spam and provides their personal information, having two-factor authentication can keep accounts safe.