4 Tips to Keep in Mind to Avoid SMS Scams

From time to time, we receive strange texts from numbers we don’t recognize telling us that our Amazon account has or needs a delivery update or that there is unusual activity detected in our bank account. Texts like these are accompanied with a suspicious looking link that asks you to click to log in. The issue with these messages is that sometimes it could be difficult to tell if it’s a scam when it mentions a company, bank, or other entity we typically interact with. While this may be so, we’ve outlined a few tips for you to keep in mind when you get that suspicious SMS message:

Tip #1: Don’t Click on Links from a Text You Don’t Recognize

It’s important to look out for one of the bigger signs that the text you received could be a scam: if it asks you to click on a link. Usually, you can tell when a link is fraudulent through the domain name. Other times it may be a bit more difficult to assess the link, especially if the company name is used within the link. In whichever case, it’s best practice to just avoid clicking on any such links sent to your phone. If you receive a delivery notification that asks you to check its status through a link, go to your web browser or application instead and log into your account to do so. 

Tip #2: Don’t Reply to Suspicious SMS Messages

Messages that you don’t recognize could ask you to reply “YES” or “NO” or to give them a call about your bank account that was experiencing suspicious activity. In any case, avoid replying back to such messages and note that call to action texts that you don’t recognize could very well be an SMS scam. 

Tip #3: Be Mindful of the Message Content

It’s important to look out for a few tell-tale signs within message content that may reveal the malicious nature of a text. Several things to spot include the greeting message, spelling, grammar, and the link provided. If anything seems out of character through the message, then you’re probably right to think it may be fraudulent. Again, it’s always best to sign into your account through the official website than clicking on a link you’re unsure of – especially if the domain doesn’t appear to be an official company website link. 

Tip #4: Use Your Phone’s Block Feature

To help you avoid receiving any further messages from a sender, iPhones come equipped with the ability to “Report Junk” for texts you don’t recognize. The option appears when your phone recognizes that the number is not part of your contacts list. You can also block a number that sends you malicious messages by pressing on the contact info button at the top of your iMessage, press on the number once more at the top, then scroll to the bottom to press “Block this Caller”.

Global Robocall Scamming Reaches 85 Billion

According to a report published by Hiya–a company that created an app to identify and block unwanted calls–robocalling has reached a high of 85 billion, which grew 325 percent since the previous year. Among the types of scam calls received, bank account, extortion, and credit card scams were the most common.

From the report, Hiya shows that countries such as Spain, UK, Italy, and France experienced the greatest amount of robocalls. Combating such scams has been a goal of the Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission, to which Ajit Pai–chairman of the FCC–has vocalized many times.

Source: Hiya

Hiya highlights the most common scams circulating globally, including those such as:

  • The Bank Account Scam in which sensitive bank account information is stolen through means of scammers impersonating bank representatives.
  • The Extortion/Kidnapping Scam through which scammers claim to have kidnapped a relative and demand payment to return a friend or family member.
  • The Credit Card Scam that targets victims into revealing their card information to thieves who pose as a bank representative calling to “assist” or “confirm” card details.
  • The Wangiri Scam or the “One Ring” Scam that focuses on having victims call an international number, charging premium rates for calls.
  • The Neighbor Scam which copies the first 4-6 digits of a victim’s phone number to make it seem like a friend or local business is calling.

Scams types vary from country to country. For example, Spain’s top scam type includes the Wangiri Scam while in the UK, victims receive calls or texts from thieves impersonating officials from HM Revenue and Customs. In Italy, scammers sell a fake solar energy service, while in France, victims are tricked into calling a phone number after receiving something enticing in the mail (known as Ghost Delivery Scam). In the United States, IRS Scams are prevalent, in which a victim is scammed into sharing sensitive information (like Social Security Numbers) with a thief pretending to be an IRS representative.

Don’t Be Fooled by this 2017 Mother’s Day Scam

Facebook scams are at it again, this time targeting users using a fake Mother’s Day coupon.

This supposed coupon promises a $50 Lowe’s gift card in exchange for some personal information.

Once you click the post to claim your coupon, you are then taken to a fake Lowe’s survey website (note the address bar) and are shown a pop-up survey saying you’ve been selected to participate. In actuality, the form you fill out is simply collecting your personal information.

Courtesy of WNEP.com

Lowe’s has confirmed that they are not participating in this or any “promotion” of the sort.

“Please be careful when responding to any pop up ad either online or via social media; as, more often than not, the offer of gift cards or other prizes to customer’s in the guise of a specific company are set up to get your personal information for nefarious purposes.”

Use your better judgement to decipher such ads on Facebook or anywhere else. More likely than not, companies do not have the financial liberty to just throw out amounts like that to an uncapped number of individuals.

Before clicking, we also suggest hovering over the link and looking at the bottom right corner to see a preview of the address bar.

 

The Better Business Bureau offers these tips for helping you identify a scam on Facebook:

  • Don’t believe what you see. It’s easy to steal the colors, logos and header of an established organization. Scammers can also make links look like they lead to legitimate websites and emails appear to come from a different sender.
  • Legitimate businesses do not ask for credit card numbers or banking information on customer surveys. If they do ask for personal information, like an address or email, be sure there’s a link to their privacy policy.
  • Watch out for a reward that’s too good to be true. If the survey is real, you may be entered in a drawing to win a gift card or receive a small discount off your next purchase. Few businesses can afford to give away $50 gift cards for completing a few questions.

Beware Of New Credit Card Chip Scam

We may be learning about Virtual Reality and holographic technology in 2016, but the latest wave of scamming is taking a seemingly out-of-date approach with a new twist: E-mail.

Many of you have probably received new credit or debit cards with a little metallic square on the left side. If you’ve gone to the store or bank and tried to swipe the magnetic strip like you’ve been doing for decades, you’ve probably been told to “insert your card and leave it in until the transaction is complete.” That little square is actually an embedded microprocessor chip called an EMV (named after its developers: Europay, MasterCard, and Visa).

In a nutshell, when you swipe the original  magnetic strip, it contains unchanging data that can be replicated over and over again. When you use an EMV, it creates a unique transaction code that is valid only as long as the transaction is in process. By doing this, it adds an additional layer of security and ensures that your information cannot be duplicated.

This chip was designed to drastically reduce fraud in the U.S., since it has more than doubled over the past 7 years. The EMV is new to us in the USA, but has been around for over 20 years. France was the first country to implement EMV chips on credit/debit cards.

After noticing drastic fraud reduction in countries using EMV, the USA is giving it a go – and per usual, scammers are taking a different approach to try and gather your information. Since they know that gathering your transaction data is highly unlikely, they’re resorting to the old, fraudulent email tricks.

By faking email addresses and claiming to be your bank, scammers are sending fake email notices to customers informing them that their chip enabled cards are on the way – but in order for them to take effect, they must update their personal and banking info. The emails are said to look legitimate, using bank graphics and similar email addresses.

The 3 most important takeaways are as follows:

  1. Never reply to an email with ANY personal or banking information.
  2. Never click any links directly from an email. If you need to get to your bank page, type the URL in yourself to ensure the validity of the site you’re accessing.
  3. Never call a number from an email to give your information. If you need to speak to somebody or have questions about the legitimacy of the request, call the number on the back of your card and/or go into a branch location and speak to someone in person.

As for implementation of the EMV card, you will soon see EMV card readers in most places you go. Many major retailers have already transitioned, with man others to follow suit. Mobile card readers are also being updated to abide by the new laws. Automated fuel dispensers have until 2017 to make the change, but are currently following existing fraud liability rulings. Any other parties that haven’t adjusted could potentially face higher costs in the event of any large data breach. Just like when using software, the best thing you can do to ensure your security is to stay up-to-date on practices.

Always practice caution when you receive “bank emails,” or when dealing with anything that seems even the least bit suspicious. Remember to go directly to your trusted source before engaging in communication.