Dialing for Dollars (With a ring of fraud)

December 1, 2010 | By Melih Abdulhayoglu

You get a text message on your cell phone from your bank or credit card issuer: There’s been a problem, and you need to call right away with some account information.

Phishing & Vishing we know,  now welcome to “smishing”

>> How it works: you get a text message on your cell phone from your bank or credit card issuer: There’s been a problem, and you need to call right away with some account information. Or the message says you’ve won a gift certificate to a chain store – just call the toll free number to get yours now.

>> What’s really going on: The “bank” is really a thief hoping you’ll reveal your account information. The gift certificate is equally bogus; when you call the number, you’ll be told you need to buy something or pay shipping fees to collect your prize. If you fall for it, you will have surrendered your debit/credit card information to crooks who will make up false charges using your account.

>> The big picture: Welcome to “smishing,” which stands for “SMS phishing,” the new, text-message version of the lucrative e-mail scam. In this ploy, scammers take advantage of the smart-phone revolution – hoping that a text message to your cell will make it less likely you’ll investigate the source, as you might do while sitting at your desk.. Since many banks and businesses do offer text-message notification, the scam has the air of legitimacy.

Shirena Parker, a 20-year old newlywed in California, was thrilled when she got an SMS announcing she’d won a $250 gift card from the department-store chain Walmart. When she called the number, a representative explained there would be a $2 shopping charge (late hiked to $4 by another “representative”). Parker gave the scammer her debit card number and started getting round-the-clock calls from him, asking for the phone numbers and e-mails of friends and family. “It was turning into harassment,” she says. After two days, she contacted the Better Business Bureau, a US agency, among other things, monitors consumer scams. Parker was told that Walmart was not giving away gift cards. Hearing that, Parker’s husband cancelled their debit card before the thief could empty their bank account but not before he had taken the $4 “shipping charges”.

“I don’t know how they got my name and phone number,” says Parker. “But I learnt my lesson.”

>> Avoidance maneuver: Real banks and stores might send you notices via text-message (if you have signed up for the service), but they never ask for account information. If you’re unsure, call the bank or store directly. You can also check out many US businesses or charities at the Better Business Bureau website bbb.org, or Google the phone number to see if any scam reports turn up.  ”

(Credit: rd-india.com)

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