Wishing to Avoid Smishing and Vishing Holiday Scams?

So it wasn’t enough to learn that the “worms” involved in “phishing” scams weren’t on the end of a hook.  Now the FBI warns that this holiday season we also need to watch out for “smishing” and “vishing.”

Is all of this just identity theft gibberish?  Let’s decipher the “ish” family.

Phishing scams are online scams that target you through your e-mail.  Phishing scams may claim to be anyone from the FBI to the Better Business Bureau to EBay to your bank.  Of course the faux link will take you to an unsafe site where hackers will phish away for your personal information.

With every new piece of electronic equipment we buy and each new upgrade in technology, it seems that hackers and identity thieves find a new way to use our new toys to steal of money and our Christmas joy.

Smishing isn’t a new holiday dance; it’s a new scam.  Smishing scams are similar to phishing scams but smishing scams target you through your cell phone.  Smishers may send a text message to your cell phone or else place an automated call to your cell phone.

So where does the word “smishing” come from?  It’s a combination of the letters for “SMS texting” and “phishing.”

Examples of  smishing scams are a (phony) message from your credit card company to bank.  Most often they will be warning you of a problem or breach with your account, similar to the previous EBay scams.  Victims are given instructions to either call a phone number or else log into a website where someone will help them “fix” the problem.  Of course you’ll have to provide all of your account information and passwords in order for them to help you.  Are your alarm bells going off yet?

Vishing is the exact same idea but refers to automated calls made to your home phone or any landline.  The v in vishing refers to a combination of “voice” and “phishing.”

How can you protect yourself from cyber crimes like vishing and smishing?

Do not reply to or click links in texts messages from 100% identifiable sources and beware that many “smishers” are going to do a good job of imitating the entity they are pretending to be.

If you receive a suspicious message, contact the bank or credit card company by the same website, email or phone numbers you’ve used in the past.

Put downloads on your mobile phone under the same scrutiny that you would anything you were downloading to your computer.

Ignore “unknown” or “blocked” numbers. It’s like opening the door without even looking to see who’s outside.

Vishing and smishing aren’t the only holiday scams this year.  Be sure to read our Holiday Scams for more ways to protect yourself from phony sellers and phishers.