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New phishing text scam targets cell phone users

Citizen Staff Writer



A phishing cell phone scam, where people are getting text messages telling them there’s a problem with their credit union account, has hit Tucson.

The text messenger asks for personal information to be e-mailed or called in.

Don’t bite. It’s a scam that could allow a criminal to raid your account or set up other credit accounts in your name, said Kim States, acting president of the Tucson Better Business Bureau.

The scammer says there are problems with accounts at “Piramid Credit Union,” which is different from the legitimate Pyramid Credit Union in Tucson, States said.

Another phony text message says it’s from the legitimate Vantage West Credit Union.

The telephone number has been traced to Michigan and the e-mail address has been traced to Germany, States said.

The scammers are texting numerous people in the hope of getting some who are Vantage or Pyramid customers, States said.

“It’s an odds game,” she said.

States said legitimate financial institutions do not solicit personal information over the telephone, by e-mail or text message. They send letters to contact customers.

And, she said, even a letter should be verified by a call to the recipient’s bank or credit union.

Even the Pima County Sheriff’s deputy assigned as a department spokeswoman has gotten one of the messages.

“I got one this morning on my personal cell phone,” Deputy Dawn Barkman said Wednesday.

Barkman said she provided no information to the text messenger and deleted the message.

“I don’t fall for that stuff, ever,” Barkman said.

States said phishing scams are common.

This most recent one, States said, is unusual only in that the request for information is going out as a text message. Most phishing attempts are e-mails.

The Sheriff’s Department started getting reports on the phishing scam over the weekend, Barkman said.

The Better Business Bureau started getting reports Jan. 27, States said.

“From what we can tell from other better business bureaus across the country it’s in nearly every state in America. We’re hearing reports from coast to coast,” States said.

“What’s alarming about it is how widespread it is.”

She said the scammers are tailoring the messages to each state, referring to problems with accounts in financial institutions found in those states.

Check with your cell phone company to learn if you are being charged for this text message.

For example, T-Mobile bills users 20 cents for each text message sent or received, whether or not the received message is read.

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