Consumer Reports has released a warning about an increased number of fraud cases involving “smishing,” in which scammers, pretending to be officials from the IRS or Social Security, send text messages to unwary consumers claiming that the recipients are owed money and that they can get it by clicking on the included hyperlinks. It’s a way of getting the consumer to divulge personal details that “could lead to fraudulent credit card purchases or identity theft.”
In 2018, the Federal Trade Commission logged more than 93,000 complaints about unwanted text messages, including smishing attempts, up 30% from 2017. The number is expected to be even higher in 2019.
Consumer Reports offers these tips to avoid this scam:
Beware of messages that claim to be from government agencies, such as the IRS or Social Security Administration. The IRS will never send you an unsolicited text message or initiate contact by text message, email, or social media. The Social Security Administration does allow marketing firms to send emails to raise awareness of Social Security’s online services, and it uses text messages for two-factor
- authentication—but only if you’ve set up that security measure through your online account.
- Watch out for any message trying to emphasize a sense of urgency. Scams often imply that an immediate response is required to take advantage of an offer or avoid a penalty.
- Don’t be taken in by friendly, familiar language. Smishing text messages may use your name. While they often come from unfamiliar numbers, sometimes they seem to have originated from a phone number you recognize.
Never click embedded links in suspicious text messages. They can contain malicious code that could infect your mobile
Do not respond to suspicious text messages, even if the message says you can “text STOP” to prevent future messages. Any response on your part will confirm for the scammers that
- the number is in use—and you’ll just be inviting more texts.
- Delete all suspicious texts.
- Make sure your phone’s operating system is up to date. They are constantly being updated with enhanced security features to combat the latest known threats.
If you get a text from an official-sounding group and want to check it out, don’t use any information from the message. Call or email the company or agency directly using an official phone number from a recent bill or contact information from their website.
- Report the incident to the FCC or FTC.
Q: I recently learned that shredded paper should not go in recycling bins. I had been putting it in a cardboard box or paper bag and taping it shut. Where can I dispose of it now? I must shred many things and putting in the trash seems wrong.
Answer: “The Winston-Salem recycling program does accept shredded paper in bins as long as it is bagged and tied in a clear plastic bag to prevent litter,” said Helen Peplowski, the city’s director of sustainability. “This is the only material we request be bagged.”
P.E. wrote in to thank firefighters from Winston-Salem Fire Department Engine 18 “who rescued our 11-pound cat who was trapped in the vent of our heating/air conditioning duct work in our home. Our cat thanks them, too! Meow!”