Did you get a text message from your bank, or any bank? AARP predicts that consumers will see an increase in smartphone scams this year. The reason? Not enough people know they are being approached by a scam. If you get a text message claiming to be from your bank, “report it,” says Amy Nofziger, Fraud Expert & Regional Director of AARP Foundation who has seen firsthand what a victim goes through when they are scammed.
According to the FTC, phishing is when a crook impersonates a legitimate business with the goal of fraud. Ultimately, Phishing and Smishing scams are a sneaky technique cybercriminals use to get you to click on a link that will allow them to steal your personal information. The photo you see in this article is a real life spoofed text message which came through to a local Orange County resident. This potential victim forwarded the Examiner an actual screen shot of this bank message scam. Apparently this person does not bank with Chase, but who’s to say another victim doesn’t fall for this trick. According to AARP’s Bulletin, March, 2016, article “Defend your Smartphone from Scammers,” by Sid Kirchheimer, warns that smartphones continue to be a prime target for many kinds of theft. This article further explains that if there is really an account problem, your bank may call or email you, but they will never ask for your personal information.
In an exclusive interview with Amy Nofziger, who over the years has worked closely with the AARP Fraud Watch Network, she urges consumers to be on the lookout for red flags. You might wonder, what are the red flags? “Urgent requests for information or threatening requests asking you to do something, now or else,” she says. Identity theft is a threat any time a scammer gets ahold of your personal information, which is why scammers are coming up with new ways to trick the public, especially those who use smartphones. Fraudsters send spam to your phone using spoofed or fake numbers that call or text you.
Rather than become a victim, Amy Nofziger Regional Director and Fraud Expert of AARP who has for over 14 years been educating older adults about fighting fraud knows firsthand that all too many people are victimized because they don’t know, and are not warned about scams, which is why scammers pick up on this, and take advantage of the public. Amy has also served a term on the State of Colorado’s Elder Abuse Task Force, which gave rise to Colorado passing a mandatory Elder Abuse reporting law. She is now dedicated more than ever this year to seeing that the public fights back by educating one another about the many dangers of fraud.
The message featured in this article was sent in MMS format, which is done to get you to follow a malicious link to verify your account, so don’t be fooled, instead, “Learn the Red Flags so you can recognize when fraud happens,” says Amy Nofziger, Fraud Expert and Regional Director of AARP. “You should also never respond to anyone you don’t know, and report any spam to your phone carrier,” she states. If a strange number calls you, she warns “do not call them back directly. The government or your bank is not going to call you; and if they do, they will know your information,” she says.
Unfortunately, fraudsters send out SMS and MMS blasts to hundreds of thousands of smartphones at once, so be on the lookout. According to Amy Nofziger, Fraud Expert and Regional Director of AARP Foundation, “AARP has also seen a high amount of bank message scams imitating real institutions,” says Amy Nofziger. “Banks will never text you, and they will most definitely know your account information, and your account number, so if you receive an urgent message,” she says, “do not panic; but instead stop and think.”
Because, bank message scams are Impostor scams which make the caller ID show up as trusted organizations, such as a government agency, your bank or other large well known company, you need to be extra careful before you make a move. Amy goes on to offer some helpful tips to keep us safe. “Question anyone you don’t know, including a potential date you may be texting, and be sure to turn off your location,” says Amy Nofziger. “If you are on public Wi-Fi in any place, your information is not safe,” she states. According to Amy, she recommends consumers never use their credit card to buy something on a public network because this is how scammers steal your information. If you are traveling out of the country, and you must purchase something abroad, it is better to use your phone carrier’s network instead of any public Wi-Fi offered,” she says.
Identity theft is a major threat we all face; no matter who you are, or what your age. Smartphones may be fun, but they are also being used to commit fraud. If you are a victim of identity theft or fraud, be sure to report it to the FTC. Even if you do not fall for a bank message scam, be sure to spread the word to warn others, so they too won’t be swindled. Remember your number one defense against bank message and other scams is knowledge, so never stop learning.