How to Identify & Avoid Bank Text Scams

Text messaging is a quick and easy way to communicate. So it's no wonder that it has quickly become the preferred method of communication for many people—unfortunately, including fraudsters. In fact, in 2022 consumers reported $330 million in losses due to text scams, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Consumers' median reported loss was $1,000 according to the report, which was more than double the reported losses in 2021 and nearly five times the reported losses in 2019.

Of all the types of text scams cited in the report, the most common were text messages claiming to be from a bank. In 2022, consumers reported 25,725 bank mobile alert text scams, up from 13,677 in 2021 and 2,231 in 2020. And, because most consumers do not follow through and report scams to the government, the true numbers of bank text scams and losses are likely much higher.

Clearly, criminals have learned that sending a text claiming to be from a bank is a cheap, quick and effective way to steal money. That's why consumers must be vigilant about protecting themselves by identifying and avoiding bank mobile alert and text scams. Read on to educate yourself about this kind of fraud.


What Does a Bank Text Scam Look Like?

A bank text scam often looks like a legitimate text message from a financial institution. Criminals may send you a text that looks like a bank warning or fraud alert. It might claim that an unauthorized charge has been made on your account or ask you if you attempted to charge a certain amount at a particular retailer.

Texts like this will often try to create a sense of urgency, attempting to make you worry that you're going to lose money if you don't act right away. While some of these texts may be easy to spot as fraudulent, such as displaying typos or poor grammar, others can look very convincing. This makes it important to know what a real text message from your bank might look like so you can distinguish it from a scam.


Will My Bank Contact Me Via Text?

Yes, banks may use text messages to help protect accounts and provide convenient messages to customers.

The utilization of text messaging varies from bank to bank, so it's important to understand how yours might reach out to you once you agree to receive texts from them.

For example, City National sends text messages for four purposes:

  • Authentication and security messages that ask you to verify your identity or authorize a transaction.
  • Marketing and event messages that you opt into in order to get details about current offers, products, services and events.
  • Financial alerts that help you track payment approvals, transactions, balance limits and budget information.
  • To verify transactions when fraud is suspected.

More information about these messages can be found on the SMS Terms & Conditions page.

Beware of Spoofing Scams

Using a method called spoofing, scammers can make calls and send text communications that appear to be from an official or known number. Knowing the possible signs that this is happening can protect you and your account from fraud.

For example, City National will never:

  • Contact clients via an 800 number or ten-digit telephone number via text.
  • Ask you for your online banking password or one-time multifactor verification code.

Note that communications can vary from institution to institution, so verify your bank's contact methods to help you understand what to expect from it.

If you're wondering whether a text message is legitimately from your financial institution, check for the "short code," which is a five- or six-digit code that displays to identify as the sender of a text message.


How Does a Bank Mobile Alert Scam Work?

Text scams, in addition to alerting you about a supposed unauthorized charge or another improper activity on your account, will usually ask you to click a link or respond “yes" or “no" to validate a charge.

If you click on the link, you will usually be taken to a form that looks like a real bank form and asks you to enter your personal information. In addition to stealing your identity, clicking the link may also install malware on your device, allowing scammers to access it and steal further information so they can commit more financial crimes.

If you respond “yes" or “no" to the fraudulent text, that will alert the scammer that you have fallen for the scheme. At that point, they may call you to try to wring more information out of you, such as your email address, bank login details or your account number. They will use any information you provide to attempt to take money from your account, open new bank accounts under your name, or commit other financial crimes. 

Don't Give Out Verification Codes

You may receive legitimate bank verification codes by text that you use to access your accounts. But remember that a bank colleague will never call you and ask for those codes. If you get such a call, it's a scammer attempting to gain access to your account. Never share any verification codes over the phone.

How Do You Know If a Bank Text Alert is Real?

Remember these important facts about bank texts:

  • Your bank will never ask you to provide or confirm personal details or confidential information via text.
  • After you receive a suspected fraud verification text from City National, we will never ask you for additional information or request that you fill out another form. 
  • Many banks that send text messages should have short codes that are assigned, managed and monitored by the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association. Contact your bank to find out the short codes it uses for texting. If you receive a text claiming to be from your bank but it uses a different short code, the text is fraudulent.
  • Beware of texts that provide email addresses or phone numbers and ask you to respond. Scammers often create fake email addresses and phone numbers that look similar to a bank's official versions, hoping that their intended victims won't notice. Before you reach out, independently verify the contact information via your bank's website yourself.
  • Be on the lookout for red flags such as strange formatting, typos, incorrect grammar or spelling and other unprofessional mistakes.
  • Avoid clicking on links that are shortened or that don't take you to an official bank web page.

Finally, do not respond to any text messages claiming to be from a bank that you don't use.


What to Do if You Receive a Bank Scam Text?

Most people with mobile phones receive bank scam texts from time to time. When you receive one, delete it immediately. If you're not sure whether it's a scam or a legitimate text from your bank, contact your bank directly, using a publicly listed phone number, email address or official online chat form, rather than responding to the text.

If you are a City National client and you receive a text message from a number that you're unsure of, do not reply and contact the bank's fraud team.

To help stop fraud, it's important to report the fraud. You can report fraudulent text messages to City National by emailing, including the short code number and the contents of the text message.

Next Steps if You Are a Victim of a Scam

Unfortunately, banking clients are commonly targeted for identity theft, travel fraud, and bank text fraud.

As with any type of fraud, if you become the victim of a text scam, you need to follow these steps:

  • Report the fraud to the financial institution. If you suspect fraudulent activity on one of your City National accounts, immediately call (800) 557-4264, complete an online form, or email
  • Secure your private information. Avoid providing any private information to any individual that has contacted you. That includes account logins and passwords, PIN numbers, credit card validation codes, bank account numbers, credit or debit card numbers and your Social Security number. If you believe your information has been compromised, report it immediately and change your login, password and PIN as soon as possible.

This article is for general information and education only. It is provided as a courtesy to the clients and friends of City National Bank (City National). City National does not warrant that it is accurate or complete. Opinions expressed and estimates or projections given are those of the authors or persons quoted as of the date of the article with no obligation to update or notify of inaccuracy or change. This article may not be reproduced, distributed or further published by any person without the written consent of City National. Please cite source when quoting.

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