Scams are everywhere these days, from the email phishing to fake websites trying to steal your money, information or both. As scams are increasing and becoming more prevalent, it’s important to be aware of all the ways to stay safe when using your personal technology. The latest target for financial scams is right in your pocket: your cell phone.
“The phone has become the center of targets for scammers now as a scammer can send not only an email, but also a text message where people are much more trusting for some reason which really should not be,” comments Sandy Fliderman, CTO at Industry FinTech.
GOBankingRates reached out to Fliderman, as well as some other security and cyber-tech experts, to learn more about all the scams you might encounter on your phone — and ways to protect yourself.
You might be familiar with the term “phishing,” where scammers use seemingly trustworthy contact information to furtively gain access to your data. But now there’s a new type of phishing out in the world known as “smishing.”
“This is a type of phishing scam uses text messages to trick you into clicking on a link or providing your personal information,” says Fliderman. “The text message may appear to be from a legitimate company, such as your bank or credit card company, but it is actually from a scammer.”
After you have uploaded all your information, it goes immediately to the scammer who can take your identity, money, data, or any other private material stored on your phone.
A variation on the phishing theme is vishing, where scammers call and attempt to deceive you into giving them your personal information.
“This is a type of phishing scam that uses voice calls to trick you into providing your personal information,” notes Fliderman. “The caller may identify themselves as a representative from a legitimate company, such as your bank or credit card company, but they are actually a scammer.”
As technology is advancing, so too are the scams that can wreak havoc on your cell phone. Scams are upping their game in a variety of ways, including utilizing artificial intelligence.
“Now they are also using AI to fake the voice and make it sound more legitimate since many scammers are from outside the U.S. and have strong accents. The AI gets around this issue,” says Fliderman.
You get a phone call. You don’t recognize the number. You pick up and all of a sudden, you are part of a scammer’s financial plan.
“In this scam, the caller ID is manipulated to make it appear that the call is coming from a legitimate source, such as a bank or credit card company,” describes Jacob Hinson, Director & Founder at Elocker.com. “The scammer then tries to obtain personal or financial information from the victim, such as account numbers, passwords, or Social Security numbers.”
Tech Support Scam
At one time or another, all of us have needed some tech support to get us through a problem with a piece of technology, software or hardware. Scammers have caught wind of this and figured out a way to target you through your cell phone under the guise of tech support.
“The ‘tech support’ scam is where a caller claims to be from a tech company and informs you that your phone has been hacked,” says Hinson. “The caller will then ask you to download a remote access program so that they can ‘fix’ your phone. Only download programs or allow people access to your phone if you know their identity and intention.”
Every so often, you’ll see your battery life is running low and dropping with each passing minute. You need to find a charger or a public power station to re-energize your battery. Before you plug in your cell phone, beware that scammers are one step ahead of you and ready to attack.
“Criminals have recently employed a tried and true cyber-theft tactic, ‘juice jacking,’ which involves loading malware onto public USB charging stations to access mobile devices while they’re being charged,” says Amir Tarighat, co-founder and CEO of cybersecurity company Agency.
“This can threaten your phone in a number of ways, and a big concern here is that, with the amount of personal information we store on our phones, we’re opening the door for sensitive data to be exposed if the device is infected.”
This scam digs deep. Tarighat says that if you are juice jacked, “your passwords, your cards, your account number — if a hacker can get into your phone, they could get access to all of it.”
Luckily, there are ways to avoid scams via your cell phone, so long as you are vigilant and double check that what is being sent to you looks above board.
“For people to protect themselves, they need to be very suspicious of unsolicited text messages and phone calls that look out of the ordinary,” advocates Fliderman. “If you receive a text message or phone call from someone you don’t know, don’t respond. If you’re not sure if a message or call is legitimate, hang up and call the company directly using the number on your account statement.”
He adds, “Never click on links in text messages or emails. These links may take you to a fake website that looks like a legitimate website, but it is actually a scam. If you’re not sure if a link is legitimate, hover over it with your mouse to see the actual URL.”
More From GOBankingRates