Scam Alert: tips to stop cell phone spam

The bombardment of exponentially growing cell phone scams is enough to make even the most sane person go loco. Here's how you can shieldproof yourself from cell phone predators.

Photo courtesy of Bigstock Photo

Cell phone scams are like fruit flies: annoying as hell, and hard to get rid of. Except, potentially, way more dangerous. Why can't spam text messages be among the first victims of climate change?

"Congratulations, your number has made you Apple's winner. Go to http://iwontgivetheactualurl.com and enter code: 4225 to claim your free Apple product," read one of my recent text messages. It was followed by a text from Flight Centre's Insider Club, regarding a $50 voucher.

I DON'T WANT TO.

Every day, about 45 million similar spam text messages, offering gift cards and $10 trillion cash, are sent to North American cell phones, said AARP Bulletin "Scam Alert" columnist Sid Kirchheimer in his latest article on the topic. That’s triple the number sent in 2011, apparently.

Oh, you petty grifters, you.

While a low mortgage rate sounds attractive, at least 70 per cent of all cell phone spam—often called "smishing"—is designed to gyp you in some way, according to a study commissioned by an anti-spam company Cloudmark. Even worse—cell phone users are three times more likely than computer users to respond to spam.

While a fake phone call from The Beat 94.5 FM regarding free Backstreet Boys concert tickets (thanks friends) made me scream out my lungs and cry a little, I knew better than to respond to these pesky scammers trying to swindle their way into my credit card, and, in turn, gain personal and financial information.

Here are Kirchheimer's tips on how you, too, can defend yourself against cell phone predators, when pepper spray (or a kick in the groin) is not an option, and when there is no app for that:

Stop cell phone spam:

1. Ignore instructions to text "STOP" or "NO" to prevent future texts. This is a common ploy by scammers to confirm they have a live, active contact for more cell phone spam. Never dial call-back numbers either.

2. Forward the texts to 7726 (SPAM on most keypads). This will alert your cell phone carrier to block future texts from those numbers.

3. Anti-malware software is available for many phones. The trade-off may be reduced battery life, so check with your service provider or phone manufacturer for recommendations.

4. Install upgrades to your security software. If you suspect an upgrade notification is phony, check with your cell phone or software provider.

5. Never store credit card or account log-in information in emails or notes on your cell phone.

6. When you get a text promising you a $1,000 gift card, ask yourself: Would anyone really give me that? Know, too, that banks and other legitimate businesses don't send customers unsolicited texts.

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