The Oklahoma Attorney General's Public Protection Unit has issued a consumer alert warning of a fraud scheme designed to solicit credit card information from its victims. In the scheme, known as "smishing" or "SMS phishing," victims receive text messages that appear to be from their banks. The messages state that the consumer has a negative account balance and needs to call a provided phone number in order to resolve the situation. If he or she responds, the caller is asked to provide personal account information such as debit card number and Social Security number. "Phishing" is a term that was first coined in the mid-nineties, and it refers to "fishing" for personal information or account information via phone or other telecommunications device using some type of "bait." As technology has evolved, so have the methods by which phishing schemes are conducted. Soliciting information for fraudulent use via text messaging is known as SMS (short message service) phishing, or "smishing." In a smishing scheme, the text message attempts to bait the message recipient. In the case that prompted the Oklahoma Attorney General's warning, consumers are baited by the messages appearance to be from their bank and by the false information that their accounts are overdrawn.Consumers take the bait by calling the number provided in the text, and they are "hooked" when they provide information that could be used for identity theft, credit card fraud, or other financial loss. Smishing schemes prey on consumers' fear--in this case, fear that their money has been stolen or their account has been compromised. Ironically, responding to the scheme makes the fear a reality. Though most people think they are too savvy for such a scheme, the fact is that many scammers are very sophisticated and make their requests for information appear legitimate. However, there are ways to protect yourself from becoming a victim of smishing:
- Review the text messaging policies of your bank and credit card company
- Beware of messages from "5000" or other numbers provided by email-to-text services
- If the content of the message seems to prey on your fears (fear of theft, fear of harm to you or your family, fear of being falsely accused of a crime, etc.), report it to local police and file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).
- Take advantage of safety features offered by your cell phone provider, including text alias and internet text blocking.