Voice over Internet protocol, text messaging open new can of techno worms

As if we didn't have enough to worry about already.

Add "vishing" and "smishing" to the list of scams targeting today's high-tech society. Both are related to the infamous "phishing" scams that use real-looking, but phony, e-mail pleas to lure you to bogus Web sites where you unwittingly surrender personal information.

Internet-based telephones and text messages to your mobile phone are the modes of choice for the latest schemes.

If you use a voice over Internet protocol phone, or VoIP, you could be a target of vishing. It's the criminal practice of using VoIP to get your private and financial information for financial gain. The term is a combination of "voice" and phishing, and works like this:

A victim answers a call on his VoIP phone and hears an automated recording that is often generated with a voice-to-text synthesizer. The message alerts the consumer that fraudulent activity has been detected in their bank or credit card accounts. The message instructs the recipient to call a specific phone number immediately. This is often the same number that appeared in the caller ID, which is also spoofed to appear to be from a legitimate bank or credit card company.

If you get a call like this, do not -- I repeat, do not place that call. Instead, find the customer service phone number on the back of your credit card and alert them of the scam. You should always be suspicious of any message or call asking for your credit card or bank account numbers.

The same holds true in the world of smishing, which uses bogus SMS, (short message service), or text messages, to dupe you. The word is a mash-up of "SMS" and "phishing."

Smishing victims receive text messages that may ask a recipient to register for an online service or download software to their phone -- then try to sneak a virus onto the users' device. Some messages warn that the consumer will be charged unless they cancel the supposed order by going to a Web site that then installs a "Trojan horse" program that hijacks the computer or device. It launches attacks on other computers or installs key stroke logging software to steal personal account information.

Queue the flashing red lights and sirens.

Again, do not take the bait. Don't do anything with your phone or computer that you don't initiate.

The old adage that "if it looks like a fish (or is that phish?), and if it smells like a fish, it's probably a fish," holds true in cyberspace.

Now it's your turn. I want to hear from people who have been vishing, smishing and phishing targets. What happened, and how did you react? Did you fall for the scam or did you notice the warning signs? Put your story in an e-mail with the subject "scams" and I'll share the best in a future column.

Share your Internet story with me at agibes@reviewjournal.com.