‘Smishing’ attacks are on the rise

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Posted: Sunday, March 24, 2013 12:00 am

Better Business Bureau

If you receive a text message that says you’ve won a gift card worth hundreds of dollars, be careful. Otherwise you could become the latest victim of a scheme aimed at stealing your private information.

“Smishing” is the term that applies when scammers use this process via the Short Message Service, or SMS, that conveys text messages to and from your cellphone.

As with traditional “phishing,” “smishing” schemers often pose as banks, well-known companies or as lottery or sweepstakes prize presenters. The latest smishing scams involve gift card giveaways.

What are the signs of a smishing scam? A text message such as “Congratulations, you’ve won!” is a red flag.

The most recent smishing message instructs people to call a toll-free number or visit a website to redeem a free $1,000 Best Buy, Walmart or Target gift card. Many of these messages come with embedded links that can spread viruses to the phone if clicked.

Victims of the scam are often asked to reply with a text message. Scammers then ask for information, such as debit card or account number and password.

The scammers want you to respond with vital information that can ultimately lead to identity theft. One of the signs of a smishing scam is when the scammers want you to wire money before receiving your prize.

If you think you are on the verge of becoming a smishing scam victim, keep the following tips in mind.

» Never reply to the text message. Don’t open or respond to unsolicited emails or text messages offering free gift cards. Scammers prey on victims who text back and ultimately verify that the text has been sent to an active cell phone.

» If the message includes a link, do not click it. Many scammers use such links as a way to spread a viral attack to your phone. Once the information is received, the website and the phone numbers are typically disabled.

» Protect your personal information. Never give out your credit card information, Social Security number, bank details or other personally identifiable information to pay for fees, taxes or any shipping costs that you may have potentially “won” or are getting for “free.”

» Educate your family and friends about smishing scams. If you become a victim, call the credit bureaus, your bank, your credit card companies, and place an alert on your file. Then check your credit report at annualcreditreport.comto look for fraudulent activity, and report the incident to the Better Business Bureau.

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