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Cell Phone Scams - Be Careful When Buying

Dec 27, 2007
Wireless phones have made life easier in so many ways. "Waiting by the phone" no longer means sitting at home, now the phone goes where you go. You can virtually stay in touch with anyone, anywhere. Besides the traditional use of phoning another party you now have many other capabilities such as the ability to text message, browse the web and download options and information directly to your phone. However, with this comes the potential for scams. They are not only an inconvenience but can be a costly experience to boot.

Ads for free ring tones, jokes or music downloads are prevalent but we wary as what sounds too good to be true usually is just that. Always read the fine print in accepting such offers. Many of these offers are presented in a manner most appealing to children and teens. And taken at face value are attractive and seemingly harmless but can come with terms and conditions that may result in pricey and often recurring fees. In some instances these offerings come in as text messages and your reply via text to an apparently free offer or one time offer will be anything but.

Watch out for spammers on your cell. They have figured out how to enter the world of text messaging. If you thought spam was bad enough with e-mail, junk mail and telemarketing, now this kicks it up a notch as recipients of text messages are most often paying for this service.

One common spam scam is the "Pump and Dump". Thousands of cell phone users have been hit with spam text messages hawking stock (often penny stock). They promote the stock to pump up the price and then dump it as soon as the victims have helped to boost the price and quickly sell before the stock inevitably plummets. People are making millions of dollars with this type of scam.

Wireless devices are now a target for identity thieves. We know find ourselves using cell phones for more than casual conversation, for example, many people conduct online banking by means of their wireless device. With this convenience we expose ourselves to the danger of having personal information stolen by hackers. Because wireless technology now allows people to use their phones in many of the ways they can a PC, a scammer can hack into phones and get personal information just like they can a personal computer. They can even hack into a cell phone by just walking by, allowing them to listen in on calls or steal personal information without anyone's knowledge. This is accomplished by exploiting short-range Bluetooth wireless connections (WI-FI) between cell phone and hands-free headsets for PCs.

What does all of this mean to the millions of cell phone users out there? Be proactive in trying to protect your personal information, check you bill monthly. Think twice before "saving" passwords and IDs in your cell phone, which in turn means having to enter your info each time you make a transaction or want to enter a site.

Protect your cell phone like you would your wallet or purse, be aware of your surroundings when making calls and give it careful consideration before lending your cell phone to anyone. If you are a victim of a scam contact your wireless provider immediately. The amount of assistance may vary. Contacting your carrier is one way of motivating them to stay on top of the situation.
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