Weekly Feature

2012-08-16 / Business

Better Business Bureau warns of ‘smishing’ scam

If you own a cellphone, chances are very good that you have received spam text messages, known as smishing.

Smishing is a twist on an old scam that capitalizes on the explosive growth in smartphones. A smishing scam is just like a phishing scam sent to consumers via SMS text to their phone, instead of via email to a computer.

Walmart and Best Buy have been recent targets of bogus gift card smishing offers and one text message claimed a $1,000 prize.

The Better Business Bureau is warning consumers about this scam and other reports of text spam who use trusted company names in the hopes that you will fall for their phony offers like cash prizes, free laptops, information about mortgage assistance, loan offers, and a variety of other services and products.

“These messages are not only annoying, consumers need to know they’re not going to stop any time soon,” said Warren Clark, Better Business Bureau president. “Knowing what to do when you receive one is important.”

According to the Federal Trade Commission, scammers often sell consumer contact information who responded to the texts — even those who respond ‘STOP’ to the messages — and turn the cell numbers into leads to third parties.

“The first rule of thumb is to delete unknown messages and control your communication to any business. When you send the message, you have assurance that you can trust the reply,” said Clark. “Unwanted text messages that hook people into their scheme can threaten your personal identity and lead to unwanted expenses.”

BBB encourages all cellphone and Smartphone owners to follow the following anti smishing tips:

Discuss what smishing scams are with all members of your family who have cellphones, from the youngest to the oldest.

Do not click on links in text messages or emails offering prizes or ‘free’ products or trial offers.

Delete any texts or emails that claim you have won a prize or are eligible for a free product.

Do not respond to smishing text messages — by doing so you are confirming your cell number is active making it ripe for future smishing attempts.

Report the text immediately if it appears to be from your bank, the IRS, or any entity asking you for confidential account numbers or other personal information. When you report the activity you help the business alert others like Walmart and Best Buy have.

Do not provide personal information to claim ‘prizes’ or to sign up for free trials.

Never give your credit card number, social security number or bank account information to pay for fees, taxes, or shipping costs for anything that you may have “won” or are getting for “free.”

Only give your cellphone number to people that you trust. Avoid providing it online as a condition to take a survey, play a game, etc. Your number could be sold to marketing agencies without your prior knowledge.

BBB also recommends taking steps to monitor your bank statements and credit cards weekly for unauthorized charges. If you find a suspicious charge, beyond contacting that business, you should also check your family’s credit reports with all three credit bureaus annually for any unauthorized credit accounts that have been opened using your social security numbers. You can get a free credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com.

File a complaint with the Better Business Bureau at bbb.org.

Notify the Federal Trade Commission by calling 1-888-382-1222 or online at www.ftccomplaintassistant. gov/. Although the FTC will not pursue your individual complaint, your experience is valuable for their records.

If you get spam email that you think is deceptive, forward it to spam@uce.gov. The FTC uses the spam stored in this database to pursue law enforcement actions against people who send deceptive email.

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