5 On Your Side

Woman feels 'sick' over smishing theft

Posted February 15, 2010

— “Smishing” is the latest way in which thieves are stealing money from bank accounts.

Criminals are great at adapting to technology. They used to use fax machines, then the Internet and now text messages. They want to catch us off guard and scare us into giving them personal information that we wouldn't dream of passing along.

Thieves use text messages Thieves use text messages

Nancy Smith said she heard that text message alert tone and checked her phone.

“Discrepancy with your account records. Call (the phone number) for details,” the text said.

It was supposedly from Wachovia. At first, Smith said she didn't know what to think.

“I just thought it was so bizarre that they would be doing it by text, you know, when they have a phone number for me. But it still didn't really register and it said discrepancy, so I thought this is something I really need to take care of right away,” she said.

So Smith called the number, and got an automated response.

“It answers Wachovia. Enter the card you're calling about. Enter your last four (numbers) of your social. A lot of people ask you that nowadays,” Smith said. “Then they asked me my PIN and I just rattled it right off, punched it right in, and I'm like, ‘Oh no, I think you made a big booboo here.’”

The next day, she checked her account online and found she had lost a total of $700.

“I just about died is what I thought,” she said. “I had just written all my monthly bills, and all I could think about was all these checks are going to start bouncing, you know, and charge fees for that and all that stuff.”

Smith is a victim of "smishing.” It's like "phishing" because it uses bait to get you to provide your personal information. But instead of sending a bogus e-mail, it's a phony text message. Fraudsters send out thousands of messages using popular bank names. When someone bites, they use the information to make duplicate bank cards.

“Oh I was sick. I was sick,” Smith said.

When Smith called Wachovia directly, they immediately returned her money. Now, she just wants to warn others.

The problem is not limited to Wachovia or Wachovia customers. Other recent messages name Bank of America and the State Employees Credit Union, but the thieves could mention any bank.

This is yet another reminder of why you should always be skeptical of any request for your personal information unless you are the one who made independent contact with the business.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • Nobody but Carolina Feb 19, 2010

    Bingo, TriangleMommy. Occasionally I even get an Email supposedly from my internet server saying I haven't updated my billing info with them and it looks exactly like their own emails they would send. I still don't use anything on the email and go through the normal way I always do when I know I need to update the billing info and check it.

  • TriangleMommy Feb 18, 2010

    Any time you get any kind of message or even mail from your bank or credit card #, save yourself the hassle and call only the phone # you KNOW is associated with your account. Worst case scenario - they tell you that you should have called the "other" number and are rude about things. Best case - you avoid a scam.

  • My opinion not yours Feb 17, 2010

    She should feel sick, she gave her personal info in a text message-duh!!!

  • ckat Feb 17, 2010

    OMG! I got this same text messgg about a week ago..but I don't bank at Wachovia so I just ignored it! I would not ever deal with a bank account issue I am not aware of thru an AUTOMATED system anyway! That is something you want to speak directly to a person when it involves your money honey!!! WOW.

  • working for deadbeats Feb 17, 2010

    That's an expensive lesson. Next time try thinking a little bit.

  • IzzMad2016 Feb 17, 2010

    Whether it be your checking account, credit card, telephone calling card, gift card, etc....you name it and someone will find a way to scam it....I guess the usual emails riddled with poor grammar and misspelled words weren't generating enough business for the thieves so they moved on to texting where spelling doesn't count. It amazes me how many people will fall for these things day after day. Glad this woman got her money back but let this be a lesson to us all! Be skeptical.

  • psycho Feb 16, 2010

    Commonsensical, didn't you see the statement in the article that the State Employees' Credit Union is one of those target by these guys?

  • alwaysconcernedmom Feb 16, 2010

    I get mess like that all the time for Bank of America that I have NEVER banked at!

    Go figure :)

  • commonsensical Feb 16, 2010

    This is one reason why I don't use banks - they use my money to cover for others' stupidity. Credit unions are the only way to go.

  • ncnremtp Feb 16, 2010

    can you say "DUH"? how do people continue to fall for these scams? No one to blame but yourself.