Are You Being Smished?

The movie Identity Thief might be a comedy, but the crime is no laughing matter. Identity theft costs victims a lot of time and money, and now, it can begin with suspicious text messages.

Scammers have all kinds of ways to cheat people—and they’re always coming up with new ones. Take smishing. The term is a mash-up of SMS (an abbreviation for Short Message Service, a.k.a. texting) and phishing. It’s a way scammers lure you into revealing personal information via text messages that are often from a 5000 phone number or no number at all.

One common smishing scheme involves a text message informing you that you “won” a prize. The catch? (You knew one was coming…) In order to claim your “prize,” you have to reveal your credit card info to cover the costs of shipping your special “gift.” If you do, you’ll soon realize the only gift is the gift of good credit you gave the crook.

Any unusual text message that includes an unusual link or asks you to provide information could be a form of smishing. Some other common smishing schemes include fraudulent messages from a bank or credit union, links to bogus order confirmations or notifications warning you to take action before you’re signed up for a service you never requested.

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal MarketWatch, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received some 20,000 consumer complaints about smishing in 2012—a 700 percent increase over 2011. The FTC responded by filing “court cases against eight companies and 29 people who were collectively bombarding consumers with more than 180 million unwanted text messages.”

Just because smishing is on the rise doesn’t mean you have to be a victim. Stay safe by keeping these tips in mind:

  • Don’t click or download anything from a suspicious text. If you think the text might be from a legit business, call the business directly to get the lowdown.
  • Be especially wary of messages that come from a 5000 number or no number at all. Scammers often use this ruse to hide their real identity.
  • Don’t ever “act immediately.#8221; Instructions to do so are a common way in which con artists get victims to take the bait.
  • Regularly install recommended updates on your phone. This lowers the chances of getting smished by keeping your phone prepped with the latest security software.
  • Report smishy texts. If you get a suspicious text, consider filing a complaint with the the Federal Trade Commission.

Learn more about identity theft issues and how to protect yourself on erieinsurance.com.

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