Verizon customers have reported getting what appears to be a spam text message sent from their own phone number. Reports say the link takes the user to a Russian TV website.
As posted in a Verizon community forum, the text message reads "Free Msg: Your bill is paid for March. Thanks, here's a little gift for you" followed by what appears to be a link made up of seemingly random characters.
"I'm not clicking the rando link," one person posted on the forum. "My bill was paid on March 7, so i don't think Verizon sent the message. Usually those come with "VZW FREE MSG:" at the beginning anyway."
Another user wrote that they were hesitant to report it using the "Report Spammer" function since the text was coming from their own phone number.
"I don't want to accidentally report myself if that's even possible but I also want it stopped," they wrote.
"Verizon is aware that bad actors are sending spam text messages to some customers which appear to come from the customers' own number," the company said in a statement. "Our team is actively working to block these messages, and we have engaged with U.S. law enforcement to identify and stop the source of this fraudulent activity."
Chris Welch of The Verge reported that the link he received sent him to Russia's Channel One, a state sponsored network. Verizon reportedly told Welch it had no indication the activity was originating from Russia.
Dr. James Norrie, a professor of cybersecurity and strategy at York College in Pennsylvania, told WPMT he suspects it to be a Russian tactic.
"Given the current events going on between Russian and Ukraine, there is a deep suspicion in our space," he explained. "...It's really proving the Russians capability of using cyberwarfare."
This appears to be a case similar to spoofing, which the Federal Communications Commission describes as "when a caller deliberately falsifies the information transmitted to your caller ID display to disguise their identity." Often, the scammer will spoof a local number to make it seem more legitimate.
What makes the Verizon case unusual is that it's using the recipient's own phone number against them.
The safest move is to not click on any unsolicited links that are sent to you out of the blue, even if it appears to come from someone you trust. Contact them directly to confirm they sent the message.