Money power: Watch for attacks on your phone
BY SUSANNAH SNIDER Money Power
Sunday, November 25, 2012
11/25/12 at 7:17 AM
Here are ways you can detect, and deflect, ID-theft attacks on your smartphone.
Your phone holds a mother lode of data. Your smartphone may now even surpass your PC in the amount of valuable information it holds, from saved passwords to contact lists to GPS tracking data. As useful as that info is to you, it's even more valuable to criminals.
Think before you click. A whopping four in 10 users will follow an unsafe link on a mobile device this year, says mobile-security service Lookout. A common scam is a text, purportedly from your bank, claiming that there's something wrong with your credit card and asking you to call a number, says Bill Hardekopf, of LowCards.com. When you phone in, you're prompted to enter your account information. But you haven't called your bank - you've handed over your personal information to bad guys.
Scammers cast a wide net. Malware developers "are in their basements with their bags of Cheetos and they've figured out what a gold mine smartphones are," says John Sileo, an adviser on protecting your digital privacy and reputation. Text phishing (known as smishing) is one of the key tools in a scammer's toolbox. QR codes (bar codes that direct you to a website when scanned with your phone) and URL shorteners (think tinyurl and bitly) make it even harder to identify suspicious links and websites.
That big bonus prize? It's bogus. Be wary of text messages claiming you've won a gift card from a popular store, such as Target or Walmart. The link to access the store's website is likely to send you to a phony site. In some cases, clicking the link could install malware, which may take over your phone.
"Toll fraud" could hit the U.S. The most common scam worldwide, says Lookout, is malicious code that prompts your phone to order ring tones or wallpaper without your permission. Your carrier charges you for the purchase, and the scammers collect the cash.
You can fight back. If you've received unwanted messages or suspect fraud, register your complaint with the Federal Trade Commission ( tulsaworld.com/ftccomplaint). When you receive a spam text to your phone, immediately forward it to 7726 (which spells spam) to alert your carrier. You could download free anti-malware protection, such as Lookout, which will scan apps and links. But your best protection is to use your street smarts and ignore unsolicited downloads and text messages. If you're not sure whether a message is real, contact the sender independently before clicking through.
Original Print Headline: Watch for attacks on your phone
Susannah Snider is a staff writer at Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine. To send her a question or comment, go to tulsaworld.com/kiplingerfeedback.