Back in 2016, a heartwarming tale went viral and has continued to be reported on in the years since. Grandma Wanda Dench mistakenly invited a stranger, a teenager named Jamal Hinton, to her family’s Thanksgiving dinner via text. This mistake led to an unexpected connection, with the two becoming great friends, and Hinton indeed joining for Thanksgiving every year since. Netflix is even making a film about it, The Thanksgiving Text.
While the above story is a lovely one, the trouble is that scammers use scenarios like this, and manipulate our natural friendliness, trust, and belief in human connections to concoct social engineering scams. That is what we’re drawing attention to today, the so-called “wrong number scam”.
What Is the Wrong Number Scam and How Does It Work?
The scam begins with a seemingly-innocent text message sent by a scammer to the would-be victim. The message is portrayed as an “accident”, something sent to the wrong number, with the aim being to build a connection after explaining the mistake.
The message generally starts with a simple “Hello”. It could also be something elaborate, designed to pique the receiver’s interest, for example, “I had fun last night!”, or “New number, who is this?”. As soon as you respond with “who are you?”, you are letting the scammer know that the number is active and that you are a responsive target. The scammer will then follow this with something like “oh I’m sorry, I entered the wrong number.”
They will then try to form a connection with you, exploiting your friendliness to build a rapport — they may ask questions and use humor to make light of the mistakes. Romance scams have even been known to begin this way — head over here for our warning about the so-called “Pig Butchering Scam”.
Once the relationship is formed, the scammer will attempt to lure you into some kind of financial investment scam — normally related to cryptocurrency. They will advertise their seemingly-ideal lifestyle, via pictures and descriptions, and announce that they can afford this due to their crypto investment. The aim will be to tempt you into investing your money too, in order to achieve a similar luxury life. Needless to say, your money WILL NOT be invested; instead, vast sums will be stolen — and when you run dry, the scammer will disappear.
What to Do About the Wrong Number Scam?
The sad fact is that this kind of scam can be hard to detect, and once the victim is caught in the “relationship”, it will be hard to convince them of the truth until it is too late. Nonetheless, there are best practices we can follow to prevent being the victim and to mitigate potential harm.
- If you receive this kind of message: do not reply and block the number.
- If you are unsure, lookup the number online.
- Protect your messaging apps or follow best practices like how to stay safe on WhatsApp.
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Trend Micro Check is our free mobile app, specifically designed to meet the above challenges. It uses AI-powered technology to block spam and scam texts and unwanted phone calls — all for free and with no annoying ads. To date, Trend Micro Check has:
- Checked 450 million messages a month,
- Blocked 65 million messages a month,
- And helped over 2 million users worldwide.
With our industry-leading anti-phishing capabilities, Trend Micro Check will give you the protection you need and the peace of mind you want. Trend Micro Check is available on Android and iOS — why not give it a go today?
As always, we hope this article has been an interesting and/or useful read. If so, please do SHARE it with family and friends to help keep the online community secure and informed — and consider leaving a like or comment below. Here’s to a secure 2023!
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