Smishing - Cell Phone Users Beware says BBB

August 15, 2008

BBB of Southern Arizona warns that "smishing" messages are being received across the country by cell phone users. Much like email phishing scams, the intent is to steal your personal information.

Smishing is a derived from Short Message Service (SMS), the protocol used to deliver text messaging, and phishing, the act of emailing someone with the intent of stealing personal information.

Consumer Affairs reports that these scams come in many forms. Text messages might ask you to register for an online dating service -- then try to sneak a virus onto your device. Some messages warn that you will be charged unless you cancel a supposed order by going to a Web site that then extracts credit card numbers and other private data.

BBB reminds consumers that cell phones can get viruses, so never click on links from an unknown source. In addition, if you are instructed to call a number about an account, make sure you verify that number by referencing your statement or calling BBB.

"Without verifying phone numbers and links you could unknowingly provide a thief with the information they need to rip you off," says Kim States, BBB spokesperson.

Parents are encouraged to educate their children about these tactics. If a virus is downloaded, it could disable the cell phone or even the network and enable the scam artist to obtain passwords to your bank accounts, email accounts or social networking pages such as FaceBook or MySpace.

BBB also recommends cell phone users download anti-virus software and keep it updated. New viruses are created every day, so it’s important to have anti-virus software on your cell phone and update it regularly.

Finally, don’t accept files and text messages from strangers. You wouldn’t download an attachment to an email you received from a stranger to your PC. For the same reason you want to be very careful about opening unsolicited files and text messages on your cell phone.

For more consumer tips and the latest scam alerts, visit our  "BBB For Consumers" page.