If You Get This Message From Your Boss, Delete It Immediately, FBI Warns
Scammers are using a bizarre new tactic to get your personal information.
No matter what your working relationship is, getting an email or message from your boss is usually a reason to stop what you're doing and respond—even if it's after work hours. But depending on what the text says, you may want to take a second to make sure it's really your supervisor who's communicating with you. That's because the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is warning that there's one type of message from your boss that could be the sign of a scam. Read on to see what kind of text or email is a major red flag.
Be wary of any emails or texts from your boss asking about purchasing gift cards or transferring funds.
Authorities warn that a new type of scam is making the rounds that can appear very authentic. In most instances, it involves receiving a text message or email from your boss or supervisor from your workplace, local Chicago NBC affiliate WMAQ reports. The first communication can even use names to make it feel even more real, along the lines of: "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]."
The scammer will message you back with a request if you respond to the text. "Whatever the reason, they'll ask you to help by paying them with gift cards, promising to pay you back later," the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) writes in a warning. "But once you hand over the gift card number and PIN, the money is gone."
Authorities say "smishing" scams that use text or email to lure in victims are on the rise.
According to the FBI, this new type of deceptive message is known as a "smishing" scam. Similar to the "phishing" scams seen over email, this version relies on texts that also try to lure potential victims into disclosing information or clicking on a link. He says that similar fraud schemes are becoming increasingly popular, including different versions that claim a recipient has won a prize for paying their AT&T bill or that Netflix needs you to update your payment information to keep watching.
"Smishing is the latest form of scams out there in the very useful world of telecommunications," Aaron Rouse, a Special Agent In Charge from the FBI's Las Vegas office, told local NBC affiliate KSNV. "We love our devices. We love being able to go online and communicate with anyone we want and have access to all of these things. But that provides a portal for bad guys to do bad things."
There are certain signs that a text you've received is from a scammer.
If you're concerned about falling victim to a predatory text, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) says there are some hints you may be messaging with a scammer. They say to be wary of any messages from an unknown number, even if the impersonator uses personal information like your name or job title. But strange or unusual requests should also be a red flag even if they come from a number you recognize since fraudsters can sometimes clone or hijack the number, messenger account, or email.
And if the person contacting you asks to pay for anything with a gift card, you should be immediately wary. "Gift cards are for gifts, not for payments," the FTC writes. "If anyone asks you to pay with a gift card, it's a scam."
Here's what you should do if you receive a suspicious message.
When in doubt about a communication, reach out to your boss directly and confirm who you're speaking with by calling the number you have or emailing their regular address. This can also alert your boss to other potential targets within the company.
Most importantly, don't reply to the text message if you suspect it's a scam and block the number instead. "If you're getting unsolicited texts, do what I do: delete them," Rouse suggests.
Ultimately, if you're looking to cut down on the number of suspicious texts, AARP suggests checking if your phone has built-in spam protection that you can often activate in your messaging app. And call-blocking apps are also available to help cut down on potentially suspicious texts.