It’s difficult to walk down the street or even sit through a meeting these days without the majority of people around you on their phones. In fact, nearly 70% of all Americans now own smartphones.
There’s no doubt that our devices have made a lot of things in life a lot easier — from how we communicate, to how we shop, listen to music and watch TV. They’ve actually even made us smarter, at least, when it comes to instant access to information. But for whatever reason, smartphones have also caused people to let their guard down.
Read more: 3 social media money scams to watch out for
Criminals are getting easier access to information via smartphones
According to a recent study, people are three times more likely to respond to spam they receive on their smartphone as they are to respond by desktop or laptop.
That’s a big problem — because what many people don’t realize is that as our methods of communication have evolved, so have the scammers. If your idea of spam is an email from Nigeria asking you for money, listen up!
According to a recent warning put out by the AARP, ‘more than a quarter of text-message spam—such as free gift cards, cheap medications and similar text-message come-ons — is intended to criminally defraud you, compared with only about 10% of spam arriving by email.’
So while you may consider texting a more personal form of communication, it doesn’t mean you should trust the person on the other end of the conversation — because it could be a criminal after your information.
The AARP says many of these spam texts — that often come in the form of ‘great’ offers — will lead you to ‘shady websites that install malware on your phone or otherwise seek to steal sensitive details for identity theft.’
How to avoid getting scammed on your smartphone
Whether you’re a wiz with your smartphone or you’re just starting to figure it out, it’s important to understand these new methods being used by scammers — in order to know how to avoid them.
Text & email spam
Text message and email scams typically have the same intention — to gain enough information from you in order to steal your identity or other personal data like your banking information.
And since many people don’t associate their smartphones with the risk of fraud, criminals are catching them off guard.
So to help you protect yourself, here are some tips to avoid these scams:
- Never reply to a text from an unknown number — not even to ‘stop’ future messages: If it’s a scammer, it just confirms to the criminals that you are a live, real person and they’ll continue to try to scam you.
- Never click on any links — sent via email or text — that you weren’t expecting or that come from a number/address you don’t recognize.
- Install and regularly update anti-malware software on your smartphone: Here’s a list of the best mobile security software options from Consumer Reports.
- You can forward any suspicious texts to 7726 (‘spam’ on most keypads) to alert your carrier about the number that sent you the spam. Then make sure to delete the texts after you’ve passed the information along.
Just like scammers call your home phone (if you have one), they’re also trying to get to you via smartphone. So before you call back an unknown number, or even someone claiming to be from a company you do business with, there are a few things you need to know.
Common phone scams to avoid on your smartphone:
- One-ring scam: This is when criminals use robocalling technology to place Internet calls that only ring once to cell phones. If you pick up, the robocaller just drops the line. But the bigger danger is if you miss the call. Like so many people, you might think it’s an important call and dial that number right back — but don’t do it!
Turns out the area codes are in the Caribbean. That call will cost you between $15 and $30! And to add insult to injury, the criminals behind these calls will sign you up (through your cell provider) for bogus services that will be crammed on your phone bill if you return their call. See more on this scam and the area codes to look out for here.
IRS phone scam: If you receive a call from someone claiming to be from the IRS threatening you, don’t fall for it! The IRS will never threaten you or demand payment over the phone. According to the IRS, official IRS correspondence is sent through U.S. mail only. So this means the IRS will not contact you by email either. If you aren’t sure, here’s an example of what a fake IRS phone call sounds like.