The holiday shopping season has arrived, and thanks to the pandemic, we are making more online shopping than ever before. Unfortunately, this has also led to an increase in scams designed to harvest your personal information.

One of the more recent rackets, according to the Better Business Bureau, is an SMS scam that claims to be from a postal carrier like UPS, FedEx, or the United States Postal Service (USPS).

These messages, which already have touched thousands of phones Across the country this holiday season, “let” the person on the other end of the line know they have an overdue package waiting for them. To have it delivered, they have to click on a link that – oops! – actually exposes their phone to harmful malware. The avid eyes of Reddit pointed out that the posts tend to look like a variation of the following:

Howard Dvorkin, consumer advocate and CPA in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Told Money that while many of us struggle to find jobs (and pay for freebies this year), scammers work harder than never.

“At the beginning of June, the FBI told the Senate that the number of fraud complaints for the first part of 2020 was almost the same as for all of 2019, ”he said. “Americans have lost $ 194 million to COVID-19 scams. In my nearly three decades of experience, I have never seen more determination among fraudsters. “

Fraud is, among other things, a bulk activity, in which scammers target a wide range of consumers in the hope of deceiving a few victims. With so many Americans ending their holiday shopping online this year, “crooks don’t need to spread a big net to catch someone who will click the link,” says Amy Nofziger, Director of Support to victims for AARP. “Fraud monitoring network.

How this text-based scam works is to trick victims into clicking an attached link, which directs them to a form asking them to enter personal information (like bank account information) in order to receive a non-existent package.

It doesn’t just give fraudsters access to sensitive information, says Nofziger. In many cases, identity thieves use this trick to download malware onto your phone, which can lead to all kinds of nasty consequences, including ‘stealing [additional] personal information on your device, or that your phone is sending revenue-generating SMS messages, ”she says.

In the worst case, “criminals can even lock your device and demand payment of a ransom,” says Nofziger.

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Signs that you may have already downloaded malware to your phone include slow operating speeds, inability to download new apps, and an increase in pop-ups. Nofziger recommends checking with your phone manufacturer for more detailed information on the best way to detect and get rid of malware. And to prevent this from happening in the first place, learn to distinguish a real email alert from a fake one.

According to Nofziger, a common red flag for this type of scam is an email address that does not match the despatch notice in your original company email. If you’ve never received a confirmation email, or if the text claims the package is a gift from an anonymous sender, call UPS, FedEx, or USPS directly to see if you’re picked up.

“Keep track of receipts and shipping information,” she says. “Most stores will provide information on the identity of the carrier and the date the package was shipped with your order. “

If the text message sends you a generic “dear customer”, that’s another red flag, says Nofziger. But don’t assume that someone with your name can be trustworthy.

“Always be careful,” she advises. “Does the text or email ask you to click on links or provide personal information?” If this is a legitimate package issue, they will already know your information and it will only be an update. “

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