Although laws against telemarketing cell phones exist, this doesn’t stop scammers from using them to scare unsuspecting users into thinking their financial security is in jeopardy. Banks have always seemed to be the securest places for an individual’s money. However, con artists are finding new ways to get the information needed to clean out personal bank accounts in a single day. The newest way is by texting cell phone users telling them that their account has been frozen due to “unusual activity.”
This is called a “phishing” scam, or in the case to cell phones “smishing” scam, and often comes with a phone number to call or a request to text personal information to verify personal information that, in fact, gives con artists exactly what they need to illegally access accounts.
According to US Bank, customers are never contacted in such a manner and would never be asked to divulge personal information through text-messaging, via email, or over the telephone. State Dale, spokesman for US Bank stated, “If customers have any questions or concerns, they should contact their bank through traditional and proven channels, such as calling their branch or using a trusted customer service number.”
According to the Armed Forces Bank this goes beyond bank accounts to include credit card accounts as well. In all cases an individual is asked to telephone the number provided in order to reactivate the account. After calling as requested the individual is then greeted with “Welcome to the bank of…” They are then asked to enter their card number in order to resolve the pending security issue. An alternative is that a message will instruct recipients to “click this link to reactivate.” Both options take individuals directly to the con artist who, if well practiced, can draw out personal information in unusual ways which gives them access to individual bank accounts.
Smishing has another feature which is extremely dangerous in that if you download an item as requested onto your phone as instructed, malware which is a malicious code, is added to your phone thereby making it defective after all your phone numbers have been forwarded to the scammer. This gives them a whole new set of targets to victimize.
A cursory review of financial institutions has found that few organizations are exempt from these attacks which are resulting in the infringement of privacy on thousands of account holders. Unfortunately, if a response is made to such a request it is very difficult to get the money back, if ever, even when fraud paperwork is filed. Therefore, it’s important to view every contact from a bank with caution.
According to many financial institutions if contacted in a smishing scam there are many things one can do to protect themselves. First and foremost is to contact the bank immediately during regular business hours or call the number on the back of the debit card if after hours. In this way all transactions can be frozen from that point on. Secondly, contact local law enforcement agencies and file a report that indicates you have been scammed or are now the victim of fraud. If not responding, but receiving the text, take the message to the authorities so they have a physical record they can track.
Finally, remember that legitimate financial institutions will never ask you for personal information in this manner. If receiving a call or text, understand that you are being scammed and take a proactive stance, but “never” respond.