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Consumers warned about new 'smishing' texts

• Jul 11, 2018 at 11:00 AM

LANSING — A new consumer alert on “smishing” has been released by the Michigan Attorney General’s Office.

Smishing is when a scammer sends text messages to consumers appearing to be from a trusted source.

Smishing scams are like phishing scams for emails, except they arrive as text messages. The scammer’s goal is for consumers to respond to the texts with personal information or to click on links that install malware.

“Dishonest individuals are always trying to find new ways to obtain our personal information,” Attorney General Bill Schuette said in the media release. “My consumer protection team continually works to stay current on the latest scams so they can make sure Michigan residents are aware of these scams and know how to identify the scams and avoid them.”

With more than 20 billion text messages sent every day in the United States, a growing number of those are from thieves trying to scam consumers. Smartphone users are three times more likely to fall for fake text messages than computer users; therefore, text message scams are on the rise.

Common smishing scam

A common smishing tactic involves a text warning about a “problem” with one of your accounts and asking for your information to correct it.

In addition, some scammers will pitch offers that seem too good to be true, such as promises of free gifts and trips. 

It is important to not respond to these texts, either by clicking on a link or providing information. You may download malware or become an identity theft victim.

The easiest way to avoid being scammed is to delete the message.

How to spot smishing scams

It is important to look out for the following:

— A message that appears to be your bank and states there is a problem with your account. A phone number is listed for you to call right away.

— A message from an unknown sender asking for you to call a number, click on link or respond with personal information.

— A message that reads: “REAL ROLEX 90% OFF, click here.”

— A message that says, “click here,” enter “x,” or reply “stop” to opt out of future messages.

How to prevent smishing scams

— Don’t respond to any suspicious numbers. Instead, once you report it, delete the text and block the number.

— Don’t share your phone number unless you know the person or organization well.

— Beware of the fine print in user agreements for products or services that may use your phone number, like mobile apps and free ring-tone offers.

— Never follow a text’s instructions to push a designated key to opt out of future messages.

— Report scam texts to the Federal Communications Commission online; by phone at 888-225-5322; or by mail: FCC Consumer Complaints, 445 12th St. S.W., Washington, D.C. 20554.

What you need to know

Neither the State of Michigan nor the federal government will contact you via text message. Federal law makes it illegal to send commercial text messages to a mobile device without the recipient’s permission. This law even applies if you haven’t put your name on a “Do Not Call List.”

Downloading apps and ringtones on your smartphone puts you more at risk for your number to get in the hands of scammers. It is important to read the “terms of agreement” carefully before downloading anything to your device.

Report fraud

If you are a mobile subscriber with AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon or Bell, you can report spam texts to your carrier by copying the text and forwarding it to 7726 free of charge.

If you cannot use 7226, then you can report smishing texts to your service provider and the FCC.

To report a scam, file a complaint or get additional information, contact the Michigan Department of Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division, P.O. Box 30213, Lansing, MI 48909; or call 877-765-8388.

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