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ID theft

All about how it happens and how you can keep it from happening to you.

Watch out for smishing scams

There's a new scam on the rise, and those behind it are targeting cell phone users. 

Like traditional "phishing," "smishing" scammers often pose as a bank or lottery sweepstakes, asking customers to contact them immediately about a pressing issue that needs to be discussed.

The scam asks the cell phone owner to call a toll-free number and provide information, such as debit card, account number or password, to a fake automated system. Victims have said they received text messages claiming their bank accounts are frozen, and the message provided a toll-free number to call to clear things up.

The hackers are betting that you'll respond with the vital information they need to commit identity theft. In the lottery smishing scam, hackers want you to wire money before you can receive your cash prize. Victims receive text messages that read, "Win cash now!" and "Short on cash? Reply here!" These are red flags that a lottery smishing scam is in the works. Many of these scams come with embedded links that can spread viruses to the phone if clicked.

If you suspect you are the target of a smishing scam, you should not reply to the text message. Texting back is exactly what the hackers what you to do, since it tells them you have an active cell phone. If the message contains a link, do not click on it.

You should report the text immediately to your cell phone service provider and the police. You should also call your bank, if the text is claiming it's from your bank, to verify.

Consider blocking the number from which the text was sent. If your phone does not have this feature, contact your cell phone service provider. 

Remember: when it comes to identity theft scams in general, the best advice is when in doubt, don't.

Published Mar 22 2011, 12:58 PM by IdentityTheft
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