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BBB Warns Against Sneaky Smishing Scams Targeting Cell Phone Users

2/28/2011

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A new year means a new scam, this time, targeting cell phone users. Like traditional “phishing,” “smishing” schemers often pose as banks or lottery sweepstakes asking customers to contact them immediately about a pressing issue that needs to be discussed.

Victims of the bank scam are often asked to call a toll-free number and provide information, such as their debit card or account number and password, to a fake automated system. Victims have complained they have received text messages claiming their bank account is frozen with a toll free number to call to clear things up.

“These hackers are looking for you to respond with vital information that can ultimately lead to identity theft,” said Stephen A. Cox, President and CEO of the Council of Better Business Bureaus. “In the cases of the lottery ‘smishing’ scam, hackers want you to wire over money before receiving your ‘prize,’ one of the biggest red flags of a ‘smishing’ scam.”

Text messages such as “Win cash now!” and “Short on cash? Reply here!” are all red flags that a lottery sweepstakes “smishing” scam is in the midst. Many of these messages come with embedded links that can ultimately spread viruses to the phone if clicked. 

The Better Business Bureau advises consumers to do the following if they suspect they have fallen victim to a “smishing” scam.

Never reply to the text message. Schemers are preying on victims that text back and ultimately verify that the text has been sent to an active cell phone. If the message has a link in it, never click it. Many schemers use this as way to spread a viral attack on your phone. 

Report the text immediately. If you believe you have fallen victim to a “smishing” bank scam, call your bank. They’ll be able to tell you for certain if the text is legitimate.

Call your cell-phone provider. Your cell phone provider should be able to block the number, as well as any premium text messages.

Do your research. If you believe you have fallen victim to a “smishing” lottery sweepstakes scam, contact the BBB directly to confirm the legitimacy of the text message and to file a complaint against the business responsible.

Contact the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC works to legally prevent fraudulent business practices in the marketplace. File a complaint with the FTC by calling 1-877-HELP.

For more advice from BBB on identity scams, visit bbb.org.

 

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