IDK About That Text Message, It Could Spell T-R-O-U-B-L-E!

August 21, 2008
IDK About That Text Message, It Could Spell T-R-O-U-B-L-E!
Cyber-Criminals LOL at their New Scheme to Steal your Identity

Austin, Texas, July 10, 2008 - Everyone with an email box experiences spam. Those junk messages offering porn, prescription drugs and the latest get-rich-quick schemes have plagued people for years. Now spam is blowing up mobile phones via text messages, and some of them are attempting to steal sensitive personal information.

Central Texans tell BBB they have received unsolicited text messages from banking institutions. Many of the recipients are not even customers of the banks in question. The messages state the consumer's bank account has been closed "due to unusual activity" and asks them to call a phone number to re-activate their account.

Text Spam Scheme

Cyber-criminals target folks with these text messages to try and steal their sensitive personal information. They use the names and logos of legitimate banking institutions in these phishing schemes without their consent or knowledge. When someone falls for it, the cyber-criminals request and collect confidential information like financial account numbers, IDs and passwords.

The cyber-criminals sell this information to other criminals who use it for financial gain. They can also access the customer's accounts through online banking and set up false bill payments that send checks to the criminal or a conspirator. In other cases, criminals transfer funds from all available customer accounts, including credit cards, savings accounts and home equity loans, into their checking account. A copy of the customer's credit card or check card is then used with their PIN at ATMs around the world to withdraw cash from their checking account.

To increase the number of responses, cyber-criminals include upsetting or exciting statements in their text messages. They want people to react immediately and respond with the desired information without thinking about whether or not they are actually customers of the banking institution.

What You Can Do

BBB offers these tips to help consumers protect themselves:

  • Take the time to carefully examine the claims made in the text message before responding to it.
  • If you receive a text requesting sensitive information, check its authenticity by contacting the company that appears to be the originator of the message.
  • Keep in mind that legitimate banking institutions never initiate requests for sensitive information via text. Check their websites. Most have fraud alerts stating they have nothing to do with the spam emails or text messages that are circulating.
Text Spam Ban

Unwanted text messages are not only intrusive, they can be costly. Most mobile phone plans charge consumers for every text message they receive whether the text is wanted or not.

In 2003, Congress enacted the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing (CAN-SPAM) Act to curb spam. As required by the Act, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted rules that prohibit sending unwanted commercial email messages to wireless devices without prior permission. This ban took effect in March 2005.

The FCC's ban covers messages sent to cell phones and pagers, if the message uses an Internet address that includes an Internet domain name (usually the part of the address after the individual or electronic mailbox name and the "@" symbol). The FCC's ban does not cover "short messages," typically sent from one mobile phone to another, that do not use an Internet address. For more information, visit the FCC website at

About the BBB System

BBB is an unbiased, non-profit entity that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Businesses and charities that earn BBB membership contractually agree and adhere to the organization's high standards of ethical business behavior. BBB provides objective advice, free business Reliability Reports and charity Wise Giving Reports, and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. BBB also offers complaint and dispute resolution support for consumers who need help with unfair or unethical business treatment. The first BBB was founded in 1912. Today, 128 BBBs serve communities across the U.S. and Canada, evaluating and monitoring more than 3 million local and national businesses and charities. Please visit for more information about the BBB System.

This Better Business Bureau is currently supported by approximately 6,900 member businesses and serves more than 3,000,000 consumers in its 53-county service area in Texas. These counties include: Atascosa, Bandera, Bastrop, Bell, Bexar, Blanco, Bosque, Burnet, Caldwell, Calhoun, Comal, Comanche, Coryell, Dewitt, Dimmit, Edwards, Falls, Fayette, Freestone, Frio, Gillespie, Goliad, Gonzales, Guadalupe, Hamilton, Hays, Hill, Jackson, Karnes, Kendall, Kerr, Kinney, Lampasas, LaSalle, Lavaca, Limestone, Llano, Maverick, McLennan, McMullen, Medina, Mills, Navarro, Real, San Saba, Travis, Uvalde, Val Verde, Victoria, Webb, Williamson, Wilson, and Zavala.