Peer to Peer Payment Payment Services (P2P) such as Zelle, Venmo, ApplePay, PayPal, Square Cash and PopMoney are popular ways to quickly and conveniently send money electronically from your credit card or bank account.  However, anything popular with the public is also popular with scammers and identity thieves.  Recently there has been a dramatic increase in text message scams called “smishing” which appear to come from Venmo, but are, in fact, coming from an identity thief.  Many of you may be unfamiliar with the term “smishing” which is described in detail in my book “Identity Theft Alert ,” however, you are probably familiar with the term “phishing” which describes the scam by which identity thieves will trick you in an email that appears to come from a person, company or governmental agency to go by way of clicking on a link to a phony website that appears to be that of a legitimate company or governmental agency.  There you are either tricked into providing personal information that becomes used to make you a victim of identity theft or by merely clicking on the misleading link, you unwittingly download a keystroke logging malware program that reads and steals all of the personal information from your computer and proceeds to make you a victim of identity theft.    Rather than coming to you by way of an email,  a smishing attack delivers the scam to you through a text message, which is technically a “short message service” (SMS) hence smishing.

Here is a copy of a Venmo smishing text message which was forwarded to me by a Scamicide reader.

“Venmo User: You have been selected to receive a free gift worth at least $125 for a 2 minute survey distinguishsjstartxxxxxx.”

I have altered the link, however I left the initial part of the link because it does not have any apparent relation to Venmo which is a good indication that this is a scam.  Venmo is not offering $125 to people to take a survey.  No one is.  If you click on the link you either will be lured into providing personal information used to make you a victim of identity theft or will merely by clicking on the link download dangerous malware on to your phone or computer.

TIPS

Never respond directly to these text messages.  Don’t text “stop” or “no” as sometimes suggested.  Doing so only alerts the identity thieves that they have a real  and active cellphone number. Instead forward the text to 7726, which spells SPAM on your keyboard.

You can never be sure when you receive a text message asking for information if the sender is who he or she says he or she is and even if the message originates from a legitimate cellphone, you can’t be sure that the legitimate cellphone was not hacked into and the message you receive is from an identity thief.  If you ever have the slightest thought that the text message may be a legitimate message from an entity with which you do business, you should contact the real entity directly at a number that you know is correct to inquire about the text message.

For those of you receiving the Scam of the day through an email, I just want to remind you that if you want to see the ever increasing list of Coronavirus scams go to the first page of the http://www.scamicide.com website and click on the tab at the top of the page that indicates “Coronavirus Scams.”  Scamicide has been cited by the New York Times as one of three top sources for information about Coronavirus related scams.

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