Most people carry their smartphone with them, which serves as a mini-computer with all the details of their life. While your smartphone is an important extension of yourself, it is also a treasure trove of information that criminals want to get a hold of. However, it can be difficult to protect every single device from possible scams. Cybersecurity professionals say that mobile devices are the hardest enterprise asset to defend, and 74% of IT leaders from global enterprises say that their organization has suffered a data breach because of a mobile security issue. Additionally, 93% of security professionals say they need to take mobile security more seriously.
Because much of the internet’s traffic now occurs on mobile devices, mobile users are particularly vulnerable to possible attacks. Below, we discuss different types of mobile scams and how you can protect yourself against them.
What Are Phone Scams?
Phone scams aim at deceiving phone owners into giving up their personal information or otherwise providing access to a scammer to extract valuable information from the phone. Scammers know that many mobile phone owners store their passwords, banking information, user ids, and other sensitive data on their phones, so they like to target these devices.
Types of Mobile Scams
Criminals are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their attack methods and in developing ways to get sensitive information on your mobile device. Some of the most common types of mobile scams include:
Mobile Phone Virus Scams
This type of scam gives a false alert that a virus has been detected on your phone. The alert will urge you to take immediate action by downloading an antivirus app. However, this app is usually malware that contains the virus itself. The scammer can then steal the information stored on your phone.
Phone phishing or vishing is like phishing except you receive a message over your phone instead of through a corrupted email. You may receive a call from a scammer who pretends to be a representative from your bank. This scammer may inform you that your debit or credit card has been compromised and may ask you to “confirm” your account and card details, which the scammer then uses to make unauthorized transactions. This type of scam is particularly effective because the criminal applies urgency and a need to act now to protect yourself before you have a chance to investigate whether the call is real.
SMS phishing or smishing involves the sending of text messages from unknown numbers that urge you to click on a link or reply to the message with information about your account. If you click on the link, you may inadvertently install malware on your phone.
This type of scam may take on many forms, such as:
- Offers for free ringtones
- Sweepstakes offers
- Purported contact from your bank
- Subscription services
- Pay-per-minute phone numbers
One Ring Scams
This scam consists of the scammer calling once and hanging up, in hopes that you will call back. However, when you call back, you will be charged fees, often for each minute that you are on the call.
One of the most common ways for scammers to commit smartphone scams is by getting mobile phone users to download an app that contains malware on it. The scammer may offer a free app or imitate a more reputable brand to get you to install the infected app, which can then steal your private data.
Social Media Spam
Social media spam tries to get you to like posts to get the account holder more money or to spam you with messages that contain phishing links.
How to Tell If Your Phone Is Tapped
More sophisticated mobile phone scams may infiltrate your mobile device. If the phone is tapped or monitored, you may be able to recognize it by the following signs:
- You hear unusual sounds during calls
- Your battery dies faster
- Your phone feels hot
- Your phone shows activity when it should be inactive
- It is difficult to turn off your phone
- You receive unusual texts
- You notice increased data usage
Ways You Can Spot a Fake Mobile App
Because fake mobile apps are one of the most common ways to infiltrate your cell phone, it is important that you know how to spot a fake mobile app. Look for these possible cues:
- There are few or no reviews about the app
- Negative reviews
- Unprofessional images
- Lack of explanations or details about the function of the app
- Similar name and description as an established app
How to Spot Mobile Phone Scams
While every scam will have its own unique characteristics, some of the features that may indicate a scam are at play include:
Sense of Urgency
Mobile phone scammers may try to get you to act now by claiming that there is a “limited time” to act or a deadline for a promotion. They may also threaten you with criminal prosecution, debt collection, or other negative repercussions if you do not act quickly.
Scammers may try to entice you by offering a reward, a free gift, or other financial rewards that do not seem reasonable.
Some scams try to take advantage of your good heart by soliciting donations for fake charities or social causes.
Scammers need a way to get money or information from you, so scams may include requests for:
- Money, including payment through ACF, gift card, or money transfers
- Personal information, including your Social Security number, bank account number, or online login
- Visiting a website through a link or opening an account
- Downloading an app or file
Tips for Avoiding Mobile Phone Scams
Fortunately, there are many things you can do to avoid becoming a victim of a mobile phone scam. This primarily depends on you being cautious about how you use your phone. Here are some tips that can help keep you safe.
#1. Create Secure Passwords
Use highly secure passwords that meet the following guidelines:
- At least 12 characters long
- Not the same as passwords you use on other sites
- A combination of letters, numbers, and symbols
#2. Create Extended Length PINs
Switch the standard 4-digit PIN for your lock screen to a 6-digit PIN, if possible. This will make it harder to hack into your device. Avoid using a birth date or a basic number combination like “1234.”
#3. Update Frequently
You may be annoyed at frequent alerts about updating your phone. However, the latest updates often include security patches that can help prevent hackers from exploiting vulnerabilities. Update your operating system and apps as soon as they become available to keep your device as secure as possible.
#4. Lock Your Device
Be sure that you have your phone set up so that it automatically locks after a specific amount of inactive time. It takes less than a minute for a hacker to potentially infect your phone with a virus, so guard against this possibility by locking your device when it is not in use. This is especially important if you have client information saved to your device. Taking this step can also help protect your device in case it ever gets lost or stolen.
#5. Use a Virtual Private Network
If you are working or traveling away from your home base, consider using a virtual private network that keeps your data private even if you are on public wi-fi.
#6. Install Cybersecurity on Your Phone
It is not only computers that can become infected with viruses; cellphones and other mobile devices are just as vulnerable – if not more so since many people fail to install any antivirus software on their mobile devices. Look into purchasing mobile iOS or Android security software, including antivirus apps, malware protection, spam blockers apps, and other forms of cybersecurity.
#7. Turn Off Your Phone
According to the Pew Research Center, approximately one-third of American smartphone users never turn off their phones. However, keeping your phone on all day can make you more vulnerable to cyberattack.
#8. Use a Call Blocking App
Call blocking apps identify and block robocalls and other mobile phone scam numbers. Some of these apps may inadvertently block legitimate calls, so you might want to use one that alerts you that it might be spam without actually blocking the number.
#9. Don’t Download Unknown Apps
Avoid accidentally installing a dangerous app by only downloading apps from reputable app stores. Check the reviews about the app before installing it. You can also use legitimate cybersecurity apps that scan new apps before you use them to check for any security concerns.
Once you download the app, check permissions so that you are not unintentionally providing unnecessary information or access to the app since hackers may be able to access your data and steal your credentials through the app.
You can check your app permissions by clicking on “Settings” on your iPhone, followed by “Privacy.” Android users can access and update their app permissions under “Device > Application” and then “Application Manager.”
#10. Don’t Click on Links
Research firm dscout found that people tap, swipe, or click 2,617 things per day on average. This is a scary number when you consider how many dangerous links you and others around you may be clicking on. Businesses must be particularly vigilant about training their staff on safe internet practices because 86% of employees access company emails on their phones.
Your smartphone is an important extension of yourself and is a very convenient tool. However, it is also a target for cyberthieves. By using the tips outlined above and instilling cautious practices, you can protect your smartphone.
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