You receive a text message or an automated phone call on your cell phone saying there’s a problem with your bank account. You’re given a phone number to call or a website to log onto and asked to provide personal identifiable information like a bank account number, PIN, or credit card number to fix the problem.
While the message may seem legitimate, beware: It could be a “smishing“ or “vishing” scam, and criminals on the other end of the phone or website could be attempting to collect your personal information in order to help themselves to your money. While most cyber scams target your computer, smishing and vishing scams target your mobile phone, and they’re becoming a growing threat as a growing number of Americans own mobile phones and enjoy the convenience of mobile banking.
“Smishing” (a combination of ‘SMS texting’ and ‘phishing’) and “vishing” (‘voice’ and ‘phishing’) are two of the scams the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) is warning consumers about as mobile banking becomes more popular. These scams are also a reminder that cyber-crimes aren’t just for computers anymore.
Here’s how smishing and vishing scams work:
Criminals set up an automated dialing system to text or call people in a particular region or area code (or sometimes they use stolen customer phone numbers from banks or credit unions). The victims receive messages like: “There’s a problem with your account,” or “Your ATM card needs to be reactivated,” and are directed to a phone number or website asking for personal information. Armed with that information, criminals can steal from victims’ bank accounts, charge purchases on their charge cards, create a phony ATM card, etc.
Sometimes, if a victim logs onto one of the phony websites with a smartphone, they could also end up downloading malicious software that could give criminals access to anything on the phone. With the growth of mobile banking and the ability to conduct financial transactions online, smishing and vishing attacks may become even more attractive and lucrative for cyber criminals.
Tips to Protect Yourself From Cyber Scams:
- Don’t respond to text messages or automated voice messages from unknown or blocked numbers on your mobile phone.
- Treat your mobile phone like you would your computer; don’t download anything unless you trust the source.
- When shopping online, use a legitimate payment service and always use a credit card because charges can be disputed if you don’t receive what you ordered or find unauthorized charges on your card.
- Check each seller’s rating and feedback along with the dates the feedback was posted. Be wary of a seller with a 100 percent positive feedback score, with a low number of feedback postings, or with all feedback posted around the same date.
- Don’t respond to unsolicited e-mails (or texts or phone calls, for that matter) requesting personal information, and never click on links or attachments contained within unsolicited e-mails. If you want to go to a merchant’s website, type their URL directly into your browser’s address bar.