Illegitimate Cell Phone Texts Can Lead to Identity Theft

August 29, 2012

I seem to be one of the last people on the planet who has what I call a “stupid phone.” It doesn’t have apps or a touch screen or even a keyboard. When I bought it at the AT&T Store, the salesperson told me it would be obsolete in days. Probably true. That’s why I was so impressed to discover that me, with my so-called ancient phone, could be a victim of identity theft while using it.

Even “stupid” people can be victims of what is known as smishing (short message service phishing), as long as their phones have texting capabilities. Kind of like phishing, smishing involves scammers impersonating representatives of real companies and directing consumers to phony websites to provide their personal information. They send you a text message enticing you to visit the site, such as a recent fraud where thieves told consumers they could receive free gift cards to Wal-mart and Costco.

Of course, if you have a smartphone, you are in a worse spot if you get victimized by smishing. If you click on a link that a scammer sends you in a text message, it can install malware on your phone, allowing the thief to get all of the information you have stored on it. This is especially harmful if you log into secure accounts from your phone, like many people do, since they may be able to record your login and password information.

The easy answer to this one is to not believe information you get in unsolicited text messages. If you win a prize from a contest you didn’t enter, sorry to say but it’s probably a fraud. Even if you know this, you may be tempted to click on the link provided just out of curiosity. Don’t do it. Instead, delete it immediately.

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster said in a press release, “My office is seeing a lot of illegitimate text messages promising free gift cards.” So be on the lookout for these texts. It is not out of the realm of possibility that you will receive one soon.

Also, make sure that your identity theft protection plan is up to date. If thieves do somehow get a hold of your cell phone and are able to retrieve your personal information from it, you don’t want to find out after they have taken over your accounts. With that in mind, also put a password on your cell phone that automatically sets in after a couple minutes. That can help keep the less tech savvy thieves, at least, from being able to get into the contents.