"Smishing" Scam Takes Texting to Troubleville

Officials warn of latest form of identity theft.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    AFP/Getty Images
    Know who's texting you.

    Scammers have really gone high tech now.   

    "Smishing," is the new buzz.  Like phishing, it is used to steal credit card information and your identity. But now, it's all done through phone text messaging.

    “These phony text messages received on your cell phone are the equivalent of phony computer e-mail message scams called phishing,” said Steve J. Bernas, president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois.
    “Both the phony text messages and the phony e-mails appear to be genuine.  Their links supposedly take you to a company's legitimate Web site. Instead, the link takes you to a 'look-alike' site and into the hands of identity thieves. In most cases, recipients are lured to the phony sites by being told they need to ‘update’ or ‘verify’ their billing information, credit card number, bank account information, password and other sensitive information.”
     
    Because text messages are not typically blocked and only contain text, it’s easier for scammers to make smishing messages appear legitimate. 
     
    One smishing technique is to send a text you have to verify if you want to receive a product or service. It will direct you to act now to cancel.
    You may end up clicking a phone Web site asking for credit card information to cancel the fictitious orders. Those credit card numbers then are in the hands of scammers. 
    Smishing messages may also ask you to call a phony toll-free number. Then a fake operator will take down your financial information over the phone.
     
    The Better Business Bureau offers the following tips if you receive a questionable text message:
     
    • Most financial institutions, utility, or other business will not communicate with you via text message. If you do not recognize the Web site or phone number being sent to you, don't call it.

    • If you get a text message that warns you, with little to no notice, that an account of yours will be shut down unless you reconfirm your billing information, or that you will have an upcoming charge, do not reply or click on the link in the text message. Instead, contact the company referenced in the text message using a telephone number or Web site address you know to be genuine (because it appears on a billing statement, for instance).
    • Avoid e-mailing and texting personal and financial information. If you have determined the Web site to be legitimate and do decide to submit financial information, look for the "lock" icon on the browser's status bar. It signals that your information is secure during transmission.  
    • Review your credit card and bank account statements as soon as you receive them to determine whether there are any unauthorized charges. If your statement is late by more than a couple of days, call your credit card company or bank to confirm your billing address and account balances.  
    • Check out the URL or phone number of a company before you disclose any personal or financial information for FREE at www.bbb.org.

     No one wants to get smished.