Beware banking text messages

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If you use your mobile device for banking, here’s a new term you should know: SMiShing. While I was unfamiliar with this word until today, it’s something you want to avoid. The term is used to describe identity theft attempts via SMS text messages.

Some account holders at Fifth Third Bank have been recent targets of SMiShing scams, and the bank has posted a notice on its website to warn customers to watch out for suspicious text messages. Here are a few examples of what’s been popping up on mobile devices:

  • Fifth Third Bank alert. Debit card locked. Call XXX-XXX-XXXX to unlock it.
  • FifthThirdB MJVA alert 119471. Please call (XXX)XXX-XXXX.
  • Fifth Third B. Message. Your card has been locked. Call XXX-XXX-XXXX to unlock it.

While I like to consider myself a savvy consumer, I have to wonder if I might fall for these alerts. Determining the trustworthiness of text messages certainly seems more challenging than verifying the authenticity of email. I have no spam filter for text messages; they simply appear in the same folder that holds notes from friends and colleagues. Because my debit card is my primary payment method, I’m sure a notification about it would immediately catch my attention.

Research has revealed flaws with mobile applications from some banks, but this is the first time I’ve been aware of the dangers that exist with text banking. Fifth Third advises account holders that it will never contact them by email, phone or text to request or verify information. In any case like this, it’s best to call the number directly on the back of your debit card.

The FDIC recently issued new warnings about the risks of transmitting account information via mobile phones. As banks continue to develop new tools and technologies, you can be sure that identity thieves will race to develop new strategies for outsmarting them. The SMiShing scam at Fifth Third serves as a reminder to be vigilant about protecting your private information.

What do you think? Would you fall victim to a fake text message from what appears to be your bank?