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December 22, 2021

The downside of smartphone holiday shopping

If you find the holiday season hectic, have a thought for all those cyber-criminals out there. All this retail activity is keeping them up nights looking for ways to steal your money before Holt Renfrew gets it all.

Today’s fraudsters are no longer simply targeting desktop or laptop devices, however. Like everybody else they’ve gone wireless.

Realizing this, the FBI is urging consumers to use extra caution when making both online and smartphone purchases.

Smishing and vishing are two of the scams the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) is warning consumers about as the holiday shopping season peaks. These mobile phone threats are variations of phishing, except smishing uses SMS texts to initiate the scam, while vishing uses automated phone calls.

Here’s how smishing and vishing scams work:

  • criminals set up an automated dialing system to text or call people in a particular region or area code, often using stolen customer phone numbers from banks or credit unions
  • dupes receive messages like: "We’re confirming you've parcel delivery,” or “There’s a problem with your account,” or “Your ATM card needs to be reactivated,” and are directed to a phone number or website asking for personal information
  • From there, criminals can steal from victims’ bank accounts, charge purchases on their credit cards, create a phony ATM card, etc.
  • If you're unlucky enough to log onto one of the phony sites with a smartphone, you could also end up downloading malware that could give theives access to anything on your phone,the FBI warns.

The FBI report said a recent smishing scam was used to steal money from customers of a credit union. After receiving a text about an account problem, victims called the number provided and gave out their personal information. Within 10 minutes money was withdrawn from their bank accounts.

The bottom line: Don’t respond to text messages or automated voice messages from unknown or blocked numbers on your mobile phone. 

Have you been targetted this way? Did you succumb? Did you get your money back? 

By Gordon Powers, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...