Our queen of content marketing, Allie, gets text messages from time to time with her Uber login code. The problem? She’s not trying to access her Uber account; someone else is.
She ignores them because she is well versed in smishing, phishing and other criminal schemes. Tap or click here for a crash course in smishing scams. But of course not all texts with verification codes are fraudulent.
Sometimes you can get a verification code for a good reason. The problem is that it is difficult to distinguish between scams and important texts. That’s why we’ve put together this guide that will help you know what to do when you receive a random text message with a verification code.
Always be careful
In general, take it as a sign to be more vigilant. An unrequested verification code is a giant neon sign saying, “Someone is trying to log into your account!” This means your username and password could be compromised.
Now is the time to log in to your account and change your password. Make sure you come up with something strong and unique. Tap or click here to create easy to remember yet super strong passwords.
It could also mean that your account details were leaked in a data breach. These are not as rare as they should be. Criminals are constantly launching coordinated attacks against organizations that hold your personal data, from businesses to hospitals.
It is therefore a good idea to check cybersecurity databases from time to time. They are very easy to use: just enter your email address or phone number, and you will see if your private information is public property. Tap or click here for a free database that lets you see if your data is circulating on the web.
Do the alerts come from your bank? Be careful
Some accounts are much more critical than others, of course. A verification code for your Netflix account is not as dangerous as one from your bank. If you receive an alert from your bank, call them and check to see if someone has accessed your account.
It’s best to nip any potential financial problems in the bud as soon as possible. Otherwise, you could be dealing with a drained bank account, a ruined credit score, and a stolen identity. Tap or click here for three surefire signs that someone has stolen your identity.
Take the time to contact your bank. Do not respond directly to the SMS. Instead, search for the website or location and call the official number.
However, you may not need to take this extra step for most texts you receive. This is the case of banks because they have highly sensitive information. For most accounts, you can simply ignore the text once you are sure your account is protected.
If you get a verification code from an account that logs logins or devices, like streaming services that show all connected devices, it’s worth checking to see that nothing strange is going on in your account.
If you’re not careful, you might even lose your account. Tap or click here to avoid a common error that will prevent you from accessing your own Netflix account.
A few things to keep in mind
Remember that if you get a verification code that you didn’t request, it means your account could be in danger. We recommend changing your password to something more robust.
However, maybe your account is correct. Maybe your username and password are still secure, but a cybercriminal is trying to shake you off. This is a common tactic in smishing or texting scams.
Bad guys will text you with verification codes or suspicious links, trying to get you to click on them. The websites you are directed to infect your device with malware. Tap or click here for six fake text messages to watch out for.
You will rarely receive random text messages or emails containing links that you did not request. That’s why you have to be careful. Instead of clicking on the link, contact the official organization and see if the posts were legit.
It’s an extra step, but well worth the effort. If you don’t follow the proper precautions, you could lose a ton of money. AARP says annoyances that started with text messages stole $86 million from Americans in 2020.
Criminals are not the only cause
If you get a recovery code that you didn’t expect, it may mean that someone has created an account with your email address. Some people have no scruples, so they will use your details to open new accounts.
Scroll through Twitter and you might come across a few people complaining about TikTok confirmation codes. Even if they never signed up (or don’t remember creating an account), they receive codes like this:
Did I create a TikTok account and forget it and now someone is trying to access it, or has someone just tried to register a TikTok account on my number?
The answer is probably unknowable. pic.twitter.com/G5CeAlP0yP
—Aaron Reynolds (@aaronreynolds) October 12, 2019
It could very well be a phishing scam. It could also be something less nefarious. Sometimes kids who don’t get a proper digital education think it’s okay to use random numbers or emails when creating accounts. These email addresses or random numbers can be your phone number or your email address.
Few children understand two-factor authentication. When they try to log into their new account, the confirmation code from the site is sent directly to you.
If you continue to receive verification codes for accounts you never created, go to the site, change the password, and close the account. Otherwise, you may have to deal with endless notifications.
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