Beware of "smishing" scams as they grow in popularity

Jun 5, 2012 13:48:39Posted by John Skorick, MyAKA Founder & CEO

Beware of

Telemarketers have been a nuisance for decades, contacting people in their homes, often at the worst times, to talk  about everything from investing in their product or request the person answer a few questions for a survey. Once cell phones gained popularity, telemarketers seized the opportunity to contact people at their personal numbers.

However, telemarketers aren't the only issue cell phone users need to be concerned about. In fact, scammers posing as telemarketers has become a growing problem. Not only are these individuals calling people's cell phones in an effort to obtain personal information, but they also send texts to tell an individual they won something - an iPad, a gift card, etc. This often leads to requests for money, credit card numbers or more personal info. This new phenomenon has been coined "smishing," the Democrat-Herald reports.

What constitutes smishing

Many cell phone owners have received texts that read something like "Congratulations, you just won a $1,000 Target Gift Card!" followed by a link of some sort. Even though many people will delete the text immediately - which is advisable - others may fall victim to these scams, which can be detrimental to a person's savings, according to the news channel WUSA-TV.

People should not be fooled by a link that looks credible, and even though many individuals may get excited for a moment, they will be less than thrilled if they are conned into giving their information to the wrong people, the media outlet reports.

Consequences of replying to these texts

Not only does this problem cause some aggravation, but it can go much further than that. According to the Los Angeles Times, if a person decides to click on the link provided in these texts, they are most likely inviting the hacker to access their personal information through their device.

The scammers send these messages in hopes of stealing the person's identity. They typically ask for the individual's credit card number or personal information so they can receive their "prize," but there is no prize to be had.

Some people make the mistake of replying "STOP," but unfortunately, that just confirms to the hacker the number is active. What people should do is delete it immediately and contact their cell phone provider, according to the news source.

Take action against it immediately

Cell phone users should put themselves on the Federal Trade Commission's Do Not Call List, which makes it illegal for a telemarketer to call or text a person. If this is violated, a complaint should be made to either the FTC or the Federal Communication Commission, the Democrat-Herald reports.

In addition, if a person does receive these smishing messages, they may want to check their accounts to ensure no third party hacker or scammer was able to access any money, according to the news source.

These text messages can be sent to anyone, but the first step is for individuals to educate themselves about the topic and take action. The Los Angeles Times reports that both the FTC and the major mobile carriers are attempting to fight against these scammers by investing in spam-fighting technology. However, cell phone owners may want to take their privacy and personal information into their own hands when possible. A few things to think about include considering not only who may have access to a person's cell phone, but to whom they are handing out their number. By setting up a second phone number, people can distinguish between a family and friend, and a telemarketer or client. This can help keep these scammers at bay.