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Fraudulent Text Messages and Smishing

A rapidly growing fraud called “smishing” is hitting cell phone and other mobile device users.  Think of it as mobile spam that is attempting to trick you into revealing personal information. 

Smishing is a slang IT term which refers to phishing via mobile phone SMS messaging (the protocol used to transmit text messages via cellular devices).  Like phishing, criminals are seeking your personal information such as account numbers, passwords, PINs, credit card account or Social Security numbers using SMS messaging.   

Fraudulent text messages (spam) are sent to unsuspecting victims requesting them to supply confidential information. The text message may include a warning that there is a problem with your account or that the account will be closed unless you reconfirm confidential information.  Some messages warn that the consumer will be charged unless he cancels his supposed order by going to a web site that then extracts his credit card numbers and other private data.

Smishers began by sending text messages telling that victims had to go to a website to ‘unsubscribe’ from an expensive dating website. The website installed a virus on the victims' phones.  A more recent ploy involves inviting users to download anti-virus software for their phone, but It installs a phone virus instead. Another smish attempts to download mobile spyware to a phone that can eavesdrop on conversations.

How can you protect yourself?  Be extra careful about clicking on embedded internet links in text messages. You should also use your common sense if you get an unexpected text message. That lottery win could be a con trick or the free anti-virus software could turn out to be a virus.  And check with your financial institution before taking action on any text message from them. 

If you receive any suspicious text messages, do not click the links or call the numbers provided. Instead, immediately delete the message.