Every year now, it seems that tax season brings about a resurgence of financial fraud. People are stressed and a lot of financial data is being transmitted between accountants and advisors, so it makes sense. At Singer Burke, we recognize that we are the gatekeepers of a lot of sensitive information. As such, we’ve invested time and resources in trying to stay ahead of the cyber-crime wave, and are always looking into new technologies and testing our existing systems. We recently moved our office to an electronic access system as part of these efforts.
Our cyber-crime “task force” is headed up by our Chief Technology Officer, Tony Shur, and our Operations Project Manager, Ronda Susak. Recently both have expressed concern about clients’ growing exposure to increasingly more sophisticated mobile device scams. As such, I invited Ronda to contribute a guest post to our journal that takes a deeper dive into what’s going on and how you can try to protect yourself:
Cyber-crime is on the rise. As we rely more and more on smartphones, we open up a whole new world to cyber-criminals who desire access to our financial accounts, email accounts, text messages, etc. The list goes on and on.
Their tactics are varied and insidious. Some mobile phone scams use malicious apps to take over your smartphone. While you can download an app for just about anything, you have to be very careful. Cyber-criminals hide malware in apps that, when downloaded, give them complete control of your phone and everything in your phone. The scary thought is that most of the time you won’t even notice.
Mobile phone scams can also trick you into texting or phoning a premium rate number resulting in huge charges to your phone bill. The rule is to not respond to unknown numbers, but we all know how challenging that can be, especially if we use our phone for business.
Singer Burke’s Technology Officer, Tony Shur, has also reported a resurgence of a popular phishing scam that now is targeting iPhones and iPads. A pop up window appears alleging that a virus is present and directs the user to call a number or visit a phony website immediately to address it. These scams can more broadly appear on any web browser running on any Mac, PC or iOS device. The important thing to note is no matter how legitimate the message appears to be, it did not originate with Apple, the FBI or any legitimate organization. Don’t fall for it, and never provide/enter your credit card information if prompted by these sites.
Tips to Protect Yourself
- Treat your phone as you would your computer. Protect it with a password, use virus protection software where available and be very careful what you download.
- Download apps only through the official app store. Read the user reviews of the app and check the publisher.
- Keep security software current.
- Never store personal details like passwords or PIN numbers in text or email messages accessible through your phone.
- Do not give out personal financial or personal information via text or to any unknown caller. Reputable companies or individuals will never ask you for information that way.
- Be wary of public Wi-Fi hotspots and use caution in how you use your phone in those areas.
What to Do If You Become a Victim of Mobile Phone Fraud
- Contact your local service provider.
- Scam Tracker is a tool recently launched by the Better Business Bureau to provide consumers in the United States and Canada a place to spot and report scams. You can access it at BBB.org/scamtracker. This site even allows you to file a complaint or an alert even if you didn’t fall for a scam.
- Along the same lines, if you lose your phone or have it stolen, notify your bank. Have your passwords changed. Contact your service provider who can block your phone from receiving service. There are even mobile phone tracking device apps that can allow you to remotely wipe your phone’s memory.
Experts agree that mobile device malware and scams will only increase as users pack their mobile phones with more sensitive data. However, use the resources and knowledge available to you to take preventative measures against cyber-crime. Stay vigilant!