Criminals are always looking for new ways to scam people out of their money. For every convenience out there, someone has come up with a way to use it to their selfish advantage. In this era of mobile connectivity and smart phone usage, no one is immune to identity theft – including seniors. Smart phones are becoming so ingrained into society, they can replace home computers and be the gateway to common and petty identity theft.
Thieves are sly. They target the vulnerable and ruthlessly cast their attempts at obtaining information with the hopes of financial gain. Text messages can easily fool the tech savvy (myself included) and be difficult to trace. Any message that claims you will receive financial reward, reimbursement or compensation should be looked at with suspicion. I recently fell for an attempt when a message came through from my (supposed) telecom provider. Apparently I overpaid my recent invoice and was entitled to a refund. Because my telecom provider has used ‘No-Charge’ text messages to contact me in the past, and are consistent with their wording, I believed it. I clicked…And as soon as the process fell short of their brand and website, I realized what happened. I called the company and they confirmed it wasn’t legit. Thankfully the situation stopped right then and there and I realized just how easy this must be for thieves. First of all, they can send out the same attempt to endless potential victims. If they are indeed consumers from the same telecom company they will have knowledge of how the provider communicates with clients, when their monthly bills are processed and with one rogue contact on the inside, will likely have easy access to customer lists. I have no idea how easy it is to collect the funds when victims do complete the forms and process the false claims but this type of scam is ruthless.
There are several tips to prevent ID theft. While this list is in no way complete, it offers some guidelines similar to email ID theft attempts:
- Read your bank/credit card/other company’s policy on electronic communication. They should be able to tell you what to expect from them in terms of online activity.
- Create secure passwords and follow basic protective guidelines (don’t share your password, avoid sequential numbers and letters, no use of dictionary words – the list goes on).
- Look at senders with a suspicious eye. If the message claims to be from a bank but the sender’s reply-to number isn’t available, delete it. If the message was important, you can call the bank and confirm.
- Delete and redirect yourself – If the offer is indeed legit, don’t click on it. Close the message and go to another source (internet, phone call to a real person). If the message is indeed valid, your account should reflect it whether you used the message bait or not.
- Question the situation – Even if the message comes from a trusted name or contact you know. Anyone can have have their account hacked. Files, links and software are easily masked as something they aren’t.