Local authorities said they are seeing an increase in scams involving text messages as cellphones all but replace landlines.
Although they have become more common over the years, the goal of the scams is the same as many others, said Thousand Oaks police Detective Tim Lohman. Scammers are trying to get access to any personal information they can to commit identity theft, Lohman said.
The method for executing scams involving text messages is called “SMShing,” pronounced “smishing,” and refers to short message service, Lohman said. It is a riff off of the name of a similar method of fraud called “phishing,” where the scam occurs via email, Lohman said.
Earlier this month, one of the members of the Thousand Oaks Police Department’s Volunteers in Policing program approached Lohman about a text message he received from what he thought was his bank.
“I was very aware of how that scam works, but I was more concerned that he put his personal information in there, and he might have been scammed,” Lohman said.
To get personal information, scammers can pose as banks or companies offering free products, he said.
“They play on your emotions and your fears,” the detective said.
The bogus text message the volunteer received appeared to be from his bank. The message had a link to re-enable the account after it was supposedly disabled due to fraudulent activity, Lohman said.
The volunteer went through the prompts until it asked him to input credit card information to get the account back, Lohman said.
That was an immediate red flag for the volunteer and should be one for others who may get similar texts, Lohman said.
Whenever a text message comes from an unknown sender, Lohman suggests calling the company directly to ensure the message is legitimate.
This is important because there is not much a person can do to keep their cellphone numbers away from scammers, Lohman said.
Some companies sell the information to a third party and from that point on, there isn’t much monitoring as to what’s done with the phone numbers, he said.
Lohman advises people also remove their phone numbers from Facebook, even if the account is set to private.
“There are ways to circumvent and bypass privacy walls,” he said.