The New Cell Phone Scam : Smishing.
First it was those emails from some guy in Africa saying he needed your help with transporting a bajillion dollars out of the country and you would be able to keep a part of it from helping him. Nowadays scammers have become more refined, and you’re more likely to receive an email telling you you’ve won something and to click on the ‘link’ to claim your prize. But fraudsters aren’t content at just getting at you through your email, mobile phone messaging has become their newest way to scam users out of all their hard earned money.
According to Market Watch, Smishing is the newest scammer trick in which a user receives a text or sms promising free prizes, gift cards or iPhones if they simply click on a site. Smishing is exactly the same as the phishing scams that occur through email, except that the fraudulent messages are sent to personal phones. Consumers can be very vulnerable because they are targeted through what many consider their last spam-free method of interaction — the personal phone. Adam Levin, chairman of an identity-management solutions firm says ‘Smishing comes to you at a time when you are most distracted: You’re in a supermarket, at work, at a retail store when you get a message from what you think is a trusted source. Whenever scammers think you’re most vulnerable”
The messages themselves direct you to very simple sites, that ask you to fill out a number of questions and then direct you to another site with more questions and another site and so on until you finally find yourself having to enter your credit card number, to cover some type of expense (usually shipping) for your free gift. Sometimes some of these sites may just skip all the questions and just download malware onto your smartphone to steal all your personal details instead.
At the end of it, it’s obvious you will never receive your ‘free gift’ but you’ll have given out a lot of information about yourself that the scammers could use to open credit accounts, drain your bank accounts or tap into your medical insurance. They can also sell your email address and phone number sometimes even to other fraudsters to use to try to scam you, or use the information they have gathered to build fake dossiers about you and use it for identity theft.
These kind of scams have increased in number especially in the US to catch the the Federal Trade Commission’s attention. Cloudmark, a firm that sells messaging-threat protection to service providers, tracked 30,000 unique SMS spam pitches per month in 2012, and about 359,000 throughout the year.
Phone users here in the UAE probably
won’t have to worry about it for now since there are not many reported cases of
it here, but we’re still recovering from those scammer calls that tell you you
have won a million dirhams from Etisalat/du.