We’ve discussed tax season, but what about tax refund season?

Every year, stores go all out trying to get a piece of those refunds — and so do scammers. The other day, one of my clients received a call from a non-private number in the same area code, so my client answered it. The person on the other end was hard to understand, but my client stayed on the line out of curiosity.

“I’m calling from City Light about your electric bill.”

City Light? That’s not what the electric company is called. My client — being so awesome — hung up at that point, not willing to be threatened with a fake service interruption if she didn’t buy gift cards and send the numbers to an anonymous Yahoo account. 

SMS, or just “text,” messaging is turning out to be a promising alternative to traditional cold calling. There is no one template for scam SMS messages, but there are several recognizable varieties of SMISHING (SMS + Phishing).

  • Missed connection on Tinder: These scam artists send an SMS to what they hope will be a single man, claiming to be a woman who was back in town and looking to have fun. This scam is used to phish personal information for identity theft.
  • Impersonating the IRS: The plot of this scam is very similar to the one I experienced. The “IRS” contacts the target looking to collect a fee. Sometimes the payment is requested in gift cards. Whatever the details are, the IRS will not communicate with us using text messages — and it will never demand payment over the phone.
  • Casing you out electronically: Some text messages seek financial information, while this variety seeks your daily schedule. Criminals will use texts to try to piece together when a home will be unoccupied from information they have discovered using some pretext to contact you.

Unfortunately, even if you obtained a new phone number, the scams would not stop. In fact, depending on who had the number before you, there might be more. Blocking a  phone number is easy to do on Android or iPhone. On some devices it may be necessary to save the number as a contact before blocking it. As far as the other person is concerned, the phone just rings and rings without going to voicemail.

For scam mitigation, education, and eradication, contact us.