The latest scam in an ongoing attempt by some to free-load, involves our cell phones. The other day my husband received a text, supposedly from Wells Fargo Bank explaining his credit card had been blocked. He was asked to call a number. He deleted the message knowing it was a scam, for he is not a credit card holder with WFB. Because our young adult children are perennial texters, and still “wet behind the ears” to the evils of this world in many ways, I thought it important to run the AARP article written by Sid Kirchheimer, author of Scam-Proof Your Life.
Your cellphone chimes–a text message has come in. It bears your bank’s name and has some disturbing news. One of your accounts has been frozen. Please call us at the following number to clear this up, urges the message.
You’ve just been “smished.”
An offshoot of “phishing”–emails that try to trick you into disclosing personal or financial information–smishing is named for the SMS (short message service) technology used to send text messages. (There’s even another variation, “vishing.” Instead of a text message, you get a call with a recorded voice.)
As more people have gotten wise to computer based scams, scammers are increasingly targeting cell phones. Their users are three times more likely to fall for fake messages than computer users, according to online security firm Trusteer; iPhone users are the most vulnerable.
When you call the number the text gives you for your bank, you’re actually connecting to the scammers, who ask for your account number, PIN, Social Security number–the raw material of identify theft.
Bogus bank alerts lead in smishing attacks. But you may also get texts promising a free laptop, mortgage assistance or lottery winnings. A message may just say, “Short on cash? Reply here!” One new come-on is a supposed free security app to get you to click on a link that in fact downloads identity-stealing software to your phone.
Whatever the method, the goal is the same: to get your personal information and money.
The Federal Trade Commission recently moved against a firm that was allegedly offering phony government loans by text. Five and a half million text messages were sent to cellphones in just 40 days–roughly 85 per minute, according to the commission. The firm also is alleged to have sold the numbers of people who replied asking to be removed from the list.
…what to do?…follow me…to part 2 of this post…