As we’ve talked about in this blog, phishing scams are a growing threat to everyone. Basically, phishing e-mails are attempts at identity theft. Scammers try to get you to click on a link that puts malware on your computer. Or they ask you to validate your personal information, account numbers, passwords, Social Security number, etc.—all in an attempt to steal your identity.
Texts more likely to be fraudulent
Now, according to Sid Kirchheimer, author of Scam-Proof Your Life, fraudsters are turning their attention to smartphones. The reason, he reports, is that people are three times more likely to respond to texted spam on their cell phones than they are to iffy e-mail messages on desktops or laptops.
The danger, Kirschheimer notes, in the March issue of the AARP Bulletin, is that more than one-fourth of the text-message spam you receive is intended to defraud you. This compares with only about 10% of spam that arrives in your e-mail Inbox.
Among the most common smartphone scams:
- Voice messages telling you have won a sweepstakes prize or that a package was unable to be delivered to you.
- Calls that ring only once. (The idea is for you to call back out of curiosity and pay $30 or more for an international call when you do.)
- Callers who hang up when you answer (Also $30+ phone bills when you reply.)
- Messages supposedly from your bank or credit card company that there is a problem with your account, and asking you to click a link.
Stay safe from smartphone fraud
Don’t answer: The smartest way to avoid cell phone scams is the same as it is with any suspicious e-mails: Don’t answer or reply to them.
If you’re concerned about any possible problems with your bank or a credit card company, call the bank or credit card issuer yourself—using a phone number you know is correct.
If you believe a call is coming from a legitimate business, and you want to be removed from their phone list, hang up and call them yourself. Don’t press any numbers, assuming that will prevent future calls. That may be the way scammers double-check that they have a working cell phone number.
Be wary of unfamiliar phone numbers: Consider not answering any phone calls that come from unfamiliar numbers. If the person leaves a voice message, you’ll have an opportunity to determine whether the call is legitimate, or a likely scam. Then you can follow safety precautions.
Dangerous area codes: Do not answer or respond to calls from unfamiliar area codes. Specifically, Kirchheimer warns, beware of calls that come from the following area codes: 268, 284, 473, 649, 664, 767, 809, 829, 849, or 876.
Don’t click: The same goes for unfamiliar texts. Don’t click on any links at all. If you’re offered the opportunity to unsubscribe, don’t do it. That only confirms that the fraudsters have your correct wireless phone number.
Similarly, go to the URL, or Internet address, of any company you believe may have sent a legitimate message. Contact customer support or technical support at the actual company’s Website or phone number.
Forward spam texts to 7726 (SPAM): All of the major wireless phone providers permit you to forward spam calls to them at no cost. Doing so may not stop spam contacts immediately. But it should help the providers develop better security systems—and hopefully, systems that will prevent such calls from getting through in the first place.
See more posts on how to protect yourself, your family, and your business from various forms of cyberfraud and identity theft.