Scammers target conference churches, ministries
On Sunday, Dec. 5, Edmond-First sent out an email to its church members warning them about a potential scam.
Text messages appearing to come from pastor Scott Keneda requested images of gift cards. The church email stated in part, “We are taking steps to correct the problem as quickly as possible, but please be aware that no staff person from Edmond First would ever ask someone to purchase gift cards whether by phone or by text.”
The next day, the Oklahoma Conference Ministry Center sent an email to its staff members informing them of a potential scam that used text messages appearing to be from someone familiar. Scammers had attempted to get recipients to disclose personal information or click a harmful link, a practice called smishing.
Like phishing, which uses email to con private information out of others, smishing targets a person by making the message appear to be from someone they know such as a friend, a family member or a coworker. Unlike phishing, however, smishing relies on the inherent closeness and familiarity that people associate with receiving text messages from people they know.
There is no direct way to prevent smishing attempts, however, security companies say there are ways to ensure the safety of personal information.
- First, be skeptical of urgent security alerts and “must act now” deals. Also consider links sent by numbers you don’t recognize to be suspicious.
- Be wary of personal messages that don’t come from a real phone number, such as 5000. These often come from email-to-text services and are a popular way for scammers to bypass sharing their real number.
- Financial institutions such as banks and credit card companies will never ask you to update personal information via text message. Don’t click on any links in the message. When in doubt, call the bank or merchant directly to see whether or not the message is legitimate.
- Don’t save credit card or banking information on your phone. Hackers can’t steal what isn’t there.
- When in doubt, don’t respond. A malicious text message will do no harm if left ignored.
For suspected smishing or other attempts to obtain sensitive personal information, file a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission at https://www.fcc.gov/inspector-general/hotline.