Don't take the text bait

Published March 9, 2016

The text message that pops up on your phone sounds like an order: 

“Please update your identity and account information by clicking this link or by calling this phone number.” 

But before you follow that order, stop and think: Legitimate financial institutions don’t ask for personal information via unsolicited texts. 

Anyone who does so is likely “phishing” for your information to use and sell. 

Phishing -- like the pastime the word sounds like -- involves casting out bait to catch prey. 

In this case, you’re the prey. And the bait they lure you with is what looks like an opportunity to protect yourself. 

To keep yourself from being hooked by such predators, consider what Maps, as well as the Federal Communications Commission, AT&T, and Verizon Wireless have to say about text scams: 

  • Know that banks and credit unions – including Maps – will never ask you for account details, such as passwords and PINs, via an unsolicited text. If you get a text soliciting personal information, report it to the institution it supposedly came from.
  • Scrutinize the text messages themselves. Are the words spelled correctly? Are the sentences grammatically correct? Businesses spend a lot of time and money making their communications accurate and compliant. Crooks don’t. Sloppiness is one clue that a text message isn’t from a credible sender.
  • Resist the urge to respond to unwanted texts. Responding lets a spammer know they’ve reached someone at your phone number.
  • Report unwanted texts. Many phone service providers encourage mobile phone users to report spam texts by forwarding – for free – the unwanted messages to 7726 (which spells "SPAM") for investigation.
  • Block spammers. Most of today’s phones are smart enough to block numbers you don’t want to hear from; find out how to block numbers on yours.
  • File a complaint with the FCC. The FCC bans automatically dialed text messages to mobile phones unless a recipient consents to receive a message, or a message is sent for emergency purposes.
  • Never give your personal, credit card, online banking or mobile phone details in response to an unsolicited text.
  • Never enter personal or bank account information into an unfamiliar website you visited by clicking on a link sent via text.
  • Install and update anti-spam software on your devices. If you think you unknowingly provided your banking details to a scammer or your mobile is unexpectedly disconnected from your phone provider, contact your financial institution and telecommunications provider immediately.

Bottom line: Beware of messages from numbers you don’t know. 

In other words, don’t take the bait.