One of the newest scams to find success is called “smishing” or “vishing, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). This is where a text message or automated phone call on your landline or cell phone says there is a problem with the account at your bank. A link is provided, supposedly associated with the fraud division of your bank, that requests personal information on your account so the perpetrators can be traced. What is actually happening is scammers are gaining enough information on personal bank accounts to drain them dry before an individual can prevent the theft.
The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) is so concerned about the growth of this type of scam that they have issued a warning explaining that cyber crimes are not longer limited to computer systems. The combination of SMS texting and phishing called “Smishing” and voice activated phishing called “Vishing” are a growing trend because of their success rate as well as their ease of operation. Additionally, tracking down the perpetrators is much harder than would be expected.
So, how does it work? According to the FBI, criminals participating in this type of crime utilize an automated dialing system called a robot scammer. They text or call random numbers in a particular area code or utilize bank customer phone numbers acquired while hacking. Victims receive a message stating something like “There’s a problem with your account” or “Your ATM card needs to be reactivated.” Victims are then directed either to a link or phone number where personal information is acquired. With very little information thieves can then make charges against various credit cards, steal from bank accounts, create duplicate ATM cards, or various other things that defraud unwitting victims.
One additional feature of this system is that if using a Smartphone, once logging onto phony websites any information contained within the phone can be downloaded including phone numbers to friends and families who can serve as additional targets. This is especially important with the growth of mobile banking as well as the ability to conduct financial transactions online. The result is that smishing and vishing has become not only lucrative, but an extremely attractive alternative for cyber criminals.
Credit unions have been especially hard hit by this type of crime recently. For many customers accounts were cleaned out within about 10 minutes. The result has been thousands of victims who are now in the process of trying to recover stolen funds. However, this type of crime is not limited to individuals as businesses are also often targeted especially during peak seasons. In fact, this crime has a tendency to increase over the holidays and during summer months so individuals need to be especially weary during these peak periods of the years.
The FBI and a number of State Attorney Generals are pooling resources in order to warn consumers about the increase in robo-calling scams. They stated that individuals should not rely on caller IDs as these numbers can be spoofed making it appear as if they came from the bank and that these messages should never be responded to as instructed. Instead, if receiving such a request the bank should be notified immediately by calling their direct line. The best way to protect one’s self is to remember that once information goes onto the Internet or is given to an individual, privacy is forfeited.