‘Smishing’ is one of the latest schemes that identity thieves are using to get access to your personal information. They do this via SMS text messages and ‘phish’ for your personal information. Because so many kids have their own cell phones, this is a scheme that can target an entire family.
A classic smishing scheme starts when you receive a text message on your mobile phone. The message says you’re about to be billed for a month service you’ve subscribed to. It also says that if you didn’t sign up for the service mentioned you can contact them or ‘unsubscribe’ at their website.
Unfortunately, if you contact them or go to their website you’ll be asked to fill out a form to remove the charges from your account. The form will ask personal questions that, if answered, reveal enough information about you for the smisher to steal your identity. Questions about your name, address, debit or credit card numbers and CCV data (the 3 little numbers on the back of your card), or even a social security number; these are all things you might be asked for.
If you complete the form and submit it, you’ve handed the identity thieves the tools they needed to damage your credit. Within minutes, someone could duplicate your cards and go shopping on the other side of the world! They get the goods, you get the bills, and your credit score suffers while you try to track these criminals down.
Another popular smishing scheme is the text message that says you’ve overdrawn your savings or checking account. Similarly, you’re asked to contact the financial institution mentioned in the text message in order to avoid overdraft fees. If you respond to the text message you’ll be contacting the identity thieves, not your financial institution.
Both of these schemes use an element of fear to get consumers to react quickly: If you don’t contact them right away, it will cost you. By reacting emotionally, we forget to use our critical thinking skills in the moment.
Don’t be tempted to fall for a smishing scheme. It only takes a little research on your part to determine if your text is legitimate, or if you’ve just been smished.
If the text message says your account is overdrawn, don’t respond to the text message. Contact your financial institution directly at a telephone number that you have on file, not a number from the text message. Similarly, if it says that you’re going to be billed for a service you didn’t sign up for, contact your cell phone provider directly and inquire about the charges.
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