Look out for smishing tax identity thieves
Tuesday, February 17, 2015
I have an old-school answering machine on my home office telephone line, primarily as a receptacle for all the robo- and cold callers trying to sell me something. (Don't get me started on the uselessness of the Do Not Call list.)
Now I need one for my smartphone message options.
I've recently been getting quite a few texts from "people" I don't know. In all cases, I block the sender and then delete the message.
But this spate of such messages got me thinking that they might be related to the season, the tax-filing season.
Identity theft texters: These short messages might be smishing attempts.
Smishing is the text messaging cousin of phishing. It gets its name from the Short Message Service (SMS) systems used for texting; sometimes it's written as SMiShing.
Like fake phishing emailers, smishers try to get you to reveal personal financial data.
They try to get the info directly by pretending to be someone else, say your bank or tax accountant or even an official tax agent. Or they tell you to click on a URL that will load malware onto your smartphone or tablet with which the crooks can then access the info on your device.
Thanks to apps for our banks and utilities and similar accounts, a lot of us have a lot of personal and financial data on our handheld devices.
So far, none of the unsolicited texts I've received have asked me directly for any information or mentioned taxes. But they did have links.
Not widespread, but not gone: And tax smishing has happened in the past.
A few years ago, texting crooks tried to get refund debit card data from H&R Block clients.
The scam also is international. Irish tax officials are warning their residents of "fraudulent mobile phone text messages, purporting to come from Revenue, containing a link to a website seeking personal information in connection with a tax refund. These text messages did not issue from Revenue. The Revenue Commissioners never send unsolicited text messages."
Neither does the Internal Revenue Service or state tax departments.
And while smishing did not join phishing on the IRS' latest Dirty Dozen tax scams list, that doesn't mean it isn't happening. It just means that it's not that prevalent, yet.
As we Americans become even more dependent on our cell phones and tablets, look for smishers to try to take advantage of our wireless addiction.
So if you, too, get an unsolicited text from a strange address or phone number, take these four steps.
Ignore it. Block it if possible. Delete it.
And stay vigilant. Tax ID thieves are out there in lots of forms.
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