Spam is everywhere. It is on your phone. It’s in your email. It could be in a text, or in an instant message. It may appear to be from someone you know, or it could be from your bank, the IRS or your phone company, so the message claims. The problem with spam is, criminals use it to install malicious software on your phone so they can steal every last bit of information you have on it. Do not become a victim of fraud or identity theft. Instead take time to learn as much as you can to help fight against scammers.
Heading the fight against fraud is AARP, founded in 1958, to provide advocacy, support and guidance to help families live to their full potential. AARP has been helping people over 50 with tackling important social and financial issues, such as health care, income security, and employment. Over the years AARP has also helped raise awareness with the AARP Fraud Watch Network in hopes the community will become more aware, and be better able to protect themselves from fraud.
According to AARP’s Bulletin, March, 2016, article “Defend your Smartphone from Scammers,” by Sid Kirchheimer, studies found that 70 percent of Smartphone users who text, reported receiving spam messages. The author also points out that the problem with spam on your phone is, it could lead to unreliable and risky websites ready to install malware on your phone. Scammers will then use the information obtained by means of malware from your phone, to expose you to identity theft. If you receive a spam text message, text the word “spam” to notify your phone carrier and to stop it.
In an interview with AARP’s fraud expert Amy Nofziger, Regional Director at AARP Foundation, who for over 14 years has served the public working with seniors and educating the public on fighting fraud, she urges the public more than ever, to be on the lookout for red flags. “The worst part about Smartphone scams involving spam is that scammers create such a believable message that when confronted, people don’t know what to do,” she says.
In all the years she has been helping people fight fraud; she found that scammers take advantage of consumers by putting them in a “panic mode” which then puts them in an emotional state in which decisions cannot be made reliably. She warns the public, “If you get a message you believe is urgent, stop! Do not make any decisions under this kind of pressure; but instead take time to think about it,” she explains. Ultimately scammers will do their best to try to trick you with their urgent or threatening message, so Amy reminds us that, “scammers use scare tactics, so we as consumers should use Stop Tactics.”
According to the FTC, text message scams often come in the form of free items, cheap products, credit cards; in addition to debt collection scams which have also been known to appear in text message spam. In these messages, scammers try to make you do something, like provide your personal information, download an attachment, or visit a website that could infect your phone with malware. If you receive a spam text, and your Smartphone carrier is AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, Bell or Verizon you should copy the original message and forward it to 7726 (SPAM) at no charge. The FTC also urges consumers to put your number on the Do Not Call Registry and review your bill for any unauthorized charges. If you are the victim of a Smartphone scam or identity theft, report it to the FTC.
Ultimately, hackers are extremely advanced with their sneaky ways, so we as consumers need to catch up, and not only educate ourselves, but spread the word to stay safe from identity theft. After having helped seniors for 14 years, Amy Nofziger fraud expert and Regional Director with AARP Foundation says she is continually coming across new victims who have no idea they have been victimized until its too late. She says, “Often victims find out after reading a recent AARP article.” She continues, “You may not think it’s important to report spam on your phone, but your phone carrier needs to know so they can put the proper filters in place to fix the problem. Further, we as consumers need to educate, and empower ourselves and even more important, spread the word.”