The people of Columbus, Nebraska, and nearby areas have been targeted by a text message scam. The local police department used social media to issue a warning, asking people to be especially weary of text messages requesting users to reply with personal banking information.
What Is Text Fraud?
Text fraud, or phishing, has become increasingly popular among online criminals. This particular scammer targeted random phone numbers in and around Columbus and posed as local Pinnacle Bank. The text asked users to tap a link that would prompt them to verify their account information (even if they weren’t a bank customer), which gave the criminals access to users’ personal information.
This isn’t the first time bad SMS news has hit the mainstream. Text fraud in particular is increasingly invasive on our mobile phones, and a serious problem for financial institutions around the world. Just last month, several banks in Australia were pawns in an SMS scam; 9 banks in total were part of an elaborate and sophisticated ploy that asked bank customers to check or verify private account information.
The text messages alone don’t do any damage, but they’re designed to look and sound like the real deal. The Federal Trade Commission advises anyone who receives these types of text messages to delete them immediately. According to the FTC website, “Legitimate businesses don’t ask you to send sensitive information through insecure channels.”
Needless to say, text messaging is not a secure form of communication, even though 80 percent of text-savvy consumers use text for business. Working with banks or other private institutions via text isn’t the problem, and people shouldn’t be afraid to engage in SMS activity if they prefer that form of communication. However, everyone should be aware that the service businesses are able to provide via text are very limited, and they should never ask for private account information via text.
Online criminals commonly request things like usernames, passwords, and social security numbers; even something as simple as your address, phone number, or date of birth could compromises your identity. They’ll often use aggressive tactics to urge you to action, threatening to close accounts or discontinue service if the user does not respond.
The best thing to do if you ever suspect text fraud or a phishing scam is ignore the communication and notify the business the text claims to be coming from. The FTC also recommends that you protect yourself with security software, and keep your phone as updated as possible. Keep an eye on your credit reports and financial information. If you see anything that looks suspicious, catching it early can save you a lot of time and grief. And finally, report text fraud to the proper authorities, like The Anti-Phishing Working Group, which includes ISPs, security vendors, financial institutions, and law enforcement agencies.