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News Now

Consumer
Scam alert Bogus cell phone text messages
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (1/28/08)--Phone phishers--unscrupulous callers who direct victims to a phony Website--have changed their tune: Now they’re using cell phone text messaging to lure you in (news-leader.com Jan. 16). One recent bogus message sent to cell users in southwest Missouri warned recipients that their bank accounts had expired and that they should register at a website. Crooks count on tricking a small percentage of uneducated consumers into releasing their account information, with disastrous consequences. Internet scams--particularly those that originate overseas--are difficult to track down and prosecute. Your best bet is to stay alert and know how to protect yourself. Australian-based SCAMwatch.gov offers tips to stay safe:
* Stay alert. Don’t reply to text messages that come from numbers you don’t recognize or from people who aren’t your contacts. That applies to missed calls, too. * Beware numbers that begin with 1-900. These are premium numbers typically charged at a high rate. You may be charged just for receiving a message from 1-900 numbers via SMS (Short Messaging Service, or text message) or MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service, which extends text messaging to graphics, audio, video, photos or any combination--within size limits). And if you’re asked to reply to these messages by typing “X” and hitting the send button, you may be charged for a text message to a 1-900 number. Immediately call your carrier to complain. * Don’t show interest. Simply replying to a scammer opens the floodgates to receiving similar messages and calls. * Check with friends first. Some text messages sound like they’re from friends, but they’re not. If the message is suspect, ask friends if they called or sent you a text message before you reply.
If you think you’re a victim of a text message scam, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov, or call 877-FTC-HELP (877-382-4357). For more information, read “International Scams Seek to Steal Your Dollars” and “OMG, It’s an IM Lingo Guide for Parents” in Home & Family Finance Resource Center.
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