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Monday, March 31, 2014

How to protect yourself from text messaging scams

SMS text message scams
SMS texts that ask for money to be sent may be a scam
By Brennen Kliffmueller

As the world evolves and methods of communication continue to change, so do the methods of those out to steal your money or your identity. Of late, text messaging has become another means by which unscrupulous individuals try to pull information or install malicious software intended to steal personal information. 

By learning how to spot these scam texts and how to respond to them, you can better protect yourself and your family and ensure that your information doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. Many of these methods for recognizing and handling scam texts are the same methods used to handle fraudulent e-mails, and so the lessons could apply to both.

Recognizing a scam text

The first step to addressing a scam is determining when somebody is making the attempt in the first place. What a lot of scammers are most concerned with is obtaining your personal information: bank account numbers, credit card numbers, income information, and even your social security number.

Often times these scam texts will try to create a sense of urgency by saying you have to respond immediately, creating the impression that you could lose money or that your life will suddenly become a whole lot more difficult if you don’t immediately respond. This is a technique similar to what a salesman would use to get you to buy something: create a sense of urgency in order to get you to shut down your critical thinking skills and make an impulsive decision. The text message scam warning is an actual alert issues by a financial institution:

Text message scams
Source: KURL8 News; License: Fair use
Just remember that if it’s somebody you’re doing business with, they likely already have your information and would not be proactively soliciting that information from you. Furthermore, if a situation is really urgent enough to merit immediate response, most businesses will also employ other means of contact beyond simple text messages to include direct phone calls, e-mail, and physical mail. If it’s not somebody you’re doing business with, they aren’t supposed to be sending you unsolicited texts anyway. While political or fundraising messages are legal, and texts from a business you do have a relationship with are legal, unsolicited spam is not.

What not to do

So you’ve received a suspicious text message and are wondering how to respond to it. Replying in general is not a wise course of action as that alone tells the sender that somebody actively uses this number, and opens you up to further irritating texts in the future from this same source. Clicking links or downloading attachments is also bad as the links will often direct you to a website that looks legitimate but is, in fact, fraudulent. Furthermore, downloading anything when you don’t know the source is a terrible idea as this could lead to the installation of difficult to remove malware that is designed to send your personal information to others.

If you think the text could be legitimate, such as something from your bank or another company you do business with, rather than simply following the link in the message a good idea may be to navigate to the website of the company yourself through a web-browser (do NOT simply copy and paste the link, usually manually navigating to the page or googling the name of the business is a better course of action) and log in to your account. If the text was legitimate, and there was something that needs to be done for your account, there will be a notice posted there as well.

If all else fails, contacting the customer service department of the business in question can help to shed light on the situation. This all assumes you actually deal with them in the first place – if you’ve never heard of them before, the best course of action is to simply disregard the message, or better yet: follow the advice below.

How to find help

Once you’ve identified a text message scam, the common response is to simply delete the message and move on, however there is a way you can help others avoid falling prey to this sort of fraud in the future! Most businesses strive to shut down those performing fraudulent activity in their name, and will usually provide an e-mail address or a phone number you can forward fraudulent messages and other information to. Filing a complaint through the FTC is another method, as is forwarding the text to 7726 (SPAM on keypads). Finally, contacting your cell phone carrier for information on how to stop fraudulent text messages is another way to raise awareness about a scam and help to avoid others from becoming victims in the future!

Also, if you find yourself victim of a scam or continuous spam messages, be sure to contact a lawyer to defend your rights. Consumer rights are put in place to protect you! Don't let criminals take over your life.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, contrary to Hollywood portrayals of internet scam artists, keeping oneself safe is generally a question of awareness. People cannot take or steal your information unless you open the door for it, and keeping that door locked will deter most. This is especially true for text messages: simply by being alert and not taking the text at face value can you keep yourself protected and your information secure.


About the author: This article was written by Brennen Kliffmueller, a professional writer and content creator for the Law Office of Scott D. Owens. Brennan knows the importance of proper representation when it comes to protecting your rights and believes everyone should consult a lawyer on any legal matter.

Sources:
Better Business Bureau

Image license: Alton, GFDL, CC BY-SA 3.0