Cheryl Parson: Beware of texting scams

First Posted: 1/24/2014

We were watching TV the other night when an interesting commercial came on. It was the commercial where the woman and her husband are walking down the street. She receives a text message on her phone, turns to hubby and asks, “Are we in London?” He says “No. Why?” “Because, apparently my credit card is,” she replies.

While the commercial is showing that the woman’s bank is looking out for her, it is also an example of a scam that is growing at an alarming rate, “SMiShing.” or smishing

SMS or short message service is better known as a text message. Smishing is short for SMS phishing, similar to its email counterpart “phishing.”

Smishing is an identity theft attempt to collect personal information by sending smart phone users text messages containing a link to a fraudulent website or a phone number. The text message creates a sense of urgency to get the user to act quickly. For example, like the woman in the commercial, the message appears to be from your bank. Your credit card information is being used fraudulently, so you’d better take immediate action to stop it.

When you consider that more than 90% of text messages are opened within 15 minutes of being received, it’s no wonder scam artists are using this immediate responsiveness against unsuspecting cell phone users. It is also why there was a 400 percent growth in smishing in the first half of 2012 alone. By opening the text message, the link may download malicious software that gives scammers access to anything on the phone.

So how do you protect yourself? Your first defense is to identify if this is a smishing scam or not by doing the following:

•Think before you click. Don’t click links within text messages, even if they appear to come from someone you know. Remember, criminals use this tactic to get you to do what they want.

•If you get a message that appears to be from your bank, financial institution, etc., contact that business directly to confirm they sent you a legitimate request. If a bank is truly going to cancel your credit card, you can call the number on the back of your card to discuss this matter with them. Do your homework first by verifying the source.

•Never respond to text messages that request private or financial information from you or call a phone number from an unknown text.

•Scammers usually hide their identity by using email-to-text services, so their actual phone number isn’t revealed. Beware of messages that have a number that isn’t a cell number.

•If a text message is urging you to act or respond quickly, stop and think about it.

•Delete the text message immediately without responding.

•Forward the text to 7726 (SPAM on most keypads).

•Warn your children of smishing if they have a debit or credit card.

Remember, always know who you are receiving a text from before you text them back. Now, back to watching TV.

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