These days, nearly everyone who is on the move owns some type of cell phone with a texting plan. With only your phone number, scammers are able find ways to make you give up your personal information and sell it to the highest bidder. Thankfully, cell phone carriers in the U.S. have put in place several protections for users that allow them to dispute fraudulent charges up to 60 days after they are incurred. Android users in Europe and Asia, however, are not quite as lucky as their American counterparts. Here are some of the best known texting scams and how to avoid losing the battle against fraud.
One of the main ways a user can be harmed through texting scams is by being tricked into downloading an app. Smishing, a phishing attack sent via Short Message Service (SMS), requests information from a user by claiming they will be charged for a service $x per day until it is canceled. A link is provided to their external site that prompts for a program download that installs a Trojan horse on the phone. The Trojan horse is non self-replicating, but allows another user to gain access to the phone's information.
Texting scams can also come in the form of the obvious, "You've on a FREE $1000 gift card to **** store!", or "Claim your free iPad now!" These are known as "bribe to click" texting scams. There will be forms to fill out requesting information like your address, phone number, bank information, SSN, etc. These are blatant attempts to steal your information and spam you with more offers. When you attempt to claim your prize, it is required to sign up for at least two paid subscription offers before you can even get through to the end of the application. There is no such thing as a free iPad unless you genuinely win a competition in the real world. Sadly, those instances are few and far between.
The first thing you can do is to only download apps from official app stores from either Apple, Google, Microsoft, or Blackberry depending on your service. Don't take bait from links in text messages for apps from numbers you don't recognize, or don't have saved in your contacts. Any message encouraging you to access an external website for an app is automatically suspicious.
Any texts with special offers or prizes should be ignored and deleted if you haven't specifically signed up for coupons or offers from businesses you frequent. Be sure to keep a record of texts you do want by adding that number to your contact list. The same goes for calls received from unknown numbers. If they don't have the courtesy to leave a message, chances are they aren't someone you know who is genuinely trying to contact you for personal reasons. Any returned calls to these numbers can be redirected to premium rate numbers (starting with 190) that charge high rates per minute to your cell carrier.
Many people wonder how their numbers end up on these scamming lists in the first place. Usually, these thieves automatically generate lists of possible phone numbers and the lucky recipients have done nothing to solicit these offers. However, if you want to cut down on the amount of spam sent to your phone, there are a few easy steps to take:
- Put your number on the national DO NOT CALL list.
- Don't share your number publicly on Facebook.
- Resist using your phone number when signing up for special offers. Use an email address instead.
- Don't publicly post your mobile number when attempting to add contacts.
- Refrain from text to vote situations. Your number is harvested during this process.
Texting scams are easy to avoid if users stay updated on the current trends in fraud. Being smart about what you access is the easiest way to protect your phone and your information from scammers trying to make a quick buck. Don't be the one to give them the satisfaction, or the paycheck.