Latest scams use e-mail, text messages to lure victims
Phishing, smishing scams on rise
Fraud and identity theft complaints are on the rise as scam artists target cell phones and email to trick their victims.
Susan Feinberg was stunned to find out criminals had raided her home equity line of credit by pretending to be her.
"We discovered that they had cashed checks for $17,000," she said.
Feinberg was unsure how the crooks got her crucial information, like her Social Security number and her mother's maiden name.
But frequently, criminals tap into technology to fool people into sharing their financial details.
Phishing scams are emails that trick recipients into revealing personal data. Some of the latest have become more sophisticated. One fake looks like an email to confirm a flight. Another looks like an invoice from UPS.
Scammers also try to reach people through bogus text messages in their cell phones, called smishing. A phony link from a major retailer appears in the text offering a prize like a $1,000 gift voucher. The goal is to grab the recipients information when they click on the link to redeem their non-existent prize.
"Old-fashioned scams also work," said Kim Kleman of Consumer Reports. "We found plenty that come in the mail, as a knock on the door or over the phone."
For instance, some scammers call and claim to be from a reputable company, offering to slash your credit card interest rate or fix a computer virus they've detected. All you need to do is pay a fee or disclose sensitive information.
"Bottom line, never give out your personal information or money to someone who seeks you out," Kleman said.
Fortunately for Feinberg, her bank agreed she was not responsible for the $17,000 stolen.
To protect herself in the future, she set up a fraud alert with the three major credit bureaus. Consumer Reports recommends a security freeze, which blocks access to your credit report.
To view a list of recent stories Marilyn Moritz has done, click here.
Copyright 2012 by Consumer Reports. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.