Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

September 12, 2013

Scam text messages sent to Verizon customers

By Amanda Browning Daily News
Greensburg Daily News

---- — GREENSBURG – Scam messages have been sent to numerous Verizon Wireless customers claiming that their Pix Place accounts have expired and all data will be deleted if the user doesn’t respond in a timely manner.

One Greensburg resident knew right away that something wasn’t right when he received the message. He’d never used the Pix Place service, which is an online photo album for picture storage. Verizon does provide a photo service called Pix Place, but research on multiple technical forums has unearthed the possibility that many of these text messages are scams from a third party masquerading as Verizon.

Online forum posters and technical support guides state that the text messages are often sent to thousands of customers at once, in the hopes that a fraction of those receiving the message will respond. Once they respond, the scammer has the user’s phone number, which is then sold to companies that deal in spam messages and possibly identity theft.

One glaring red flag that these messages are a scam is the fact that they aren’t sent from a phone number. The messages are sent from the internet, most often from vzwpix.com. If sender information is provided at all, it is usually a four or five digit number instead of a full ten digit phone number. If a Verizon customer doesn’t currently use the Pix Place service and receives the message, that is another surefire sign of duplicity. There have also been reports of cell-phone users who are not Verizon customers but who have received legitimate picture messages from Verizon customers receiving the scam messages.

Several technical support guides state that one can block all messages sent from the web in their Verizon Wireless settings, but multiple postings across many Verizon customer websites report that the blocking system is faulty and doesn’t stop the messages. Legitimate Verizon messages do not incur messaging charges, so if a text or call is claiming to be from Verizon but charges the phone to receive it, most likely, that message is not safe to open. The best option to avoid being scammed seems to be deleting the messages without opening them or responding.

Beyond the annoyance of receiving unwanted spam calls and messages, the potential for catastrophic identity theft is present because once a motivated thief has a piece of your identity; the rest is usually not far behind, according to the Center for Identity Management and Information Protection. Viruses that shut down your computer or phone with the potential to steal and transmit your private data are also risks of responding to these messages, which are often called “SMishing” when sent by text and “phishing” by phone.

With the massive influx of technology the world has seen over the last few years, there is also a huge opportunity for fraud, theft and malicious intent. Many people around the world with the knowledge to steal all sorts of technological information use their skills on the less-than-legal side. While stealing social security numbers, identity and bank information, hackers can also leave behind debilitating viruses to cover their trails.

While the workers in technical support do all they can to protect customers from fraud and theft, there are simply too many threats to monitor all at once. It then falls on consumers to use their technological devices wisely, protecting themselves from outside threats by not falling for the schemes.

If one is unsure if a text message, phone call or email is from a trusted, legitimate source, it is best not to open or respond to it. A call to one’s service provider can often shed some light on the subject, letting the consumer know if they have encountered a scam. Numerous websites can also provide information about particular scams and a quick Google search will likely yield some answers. If one of the messages is responded to by accident, it would be wise to contact the service provider and monitor the bill and credit report for at least the next month.

The old saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” holds true here. It takes a lifetime to build an identity, but only a few moments for a thief to steal it, and not much longer than that to destroy it. The time it takes to rebuild one’s identity and reverse the damage done by an identity thief can take years and hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. The world is now a dangerous place and the sad fact is that many people can’t be trusted. More than ever, people must protect themselves from technological threats.

Contact: Amanda Browning 812-663-3111 x7004