Just this morning I received a strange but seemingly harmless text message that, as it turns out, is the hook for a rather insidious scam. Here’s the text verbatim:
“Good Day, My name is Mary, I’m hearing impaired, I wanna know if you can handle website design for a new company and also if you do you accept credit cards ?? kindly get back to me ASAP so i can send you the job details. Thanks…”
The hearing impaired aspect along with the poor grammar were red flags for me. I Googled the number (which had a Georgia area code) and saw no obvious scam connections. But a bit more Googling for “hearing impaired scam” yielded some insightful, and scary, results. Apparently the scammers targeted CrossFit gyms, as there are many accounts of messages very similar to the one I received being received by gym operators. You can see the accounts here. These slimy texts have also been spotted by massage therapists, graphic designers, and probably lots more.
How does the scam work?
Here’s the breakdown:
- The scammer offers to pay you for your services or products.
- The scammer pays you with a stolen credit card. They pay you more than they owe and request that you pay the extra back to a “driver” (for the gym version), a special “content strategist” (the web design version), or some other third party.
- You, the sucker, accept payment and send the extra cash to the third party.
- The scammer takes the cash and you never hear from them again.
- The credit card charge is disputed, and you likely end up footing the bill.
This scam is essentially a way to acquire the cash from a stolen credit card. The beauty of it is in the seeming innocuousness of the original text message itself. After all, most scammers will typically ask for money from YOU, not the other way around. A gullible person might not see the immediate shadiness.
Why “hearing impaired”?
There are a couple possible motives. First, the hearing impaired angle might illicit some sympathy from the potential victim, which gives the scammer a slight edge. But more likely, it’s simply a strategy to prevent the scammer from needing to speak with you on the phone, which would surely give them away.
The lesson: if a correspondence from an unknown source seems even a little bit suspicious, start doing your research. We live in an age where this kind of scam is pretty hard to get away with, so long as everyone uses their head and takes advantage of all the useful information that’s just a Google search away.