Target text scam: How hackers got your number

12:36 PM, Dec 2, 2012   |    comments
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Spam text messages are popping up on cell phones across the country trying to trick shoppers into giving away personal information. Many people received the text saying they are a Target or Best Buy Gift Card winner.

The question is: How did someone get your number?

"Everyone has a cell phone now, not everyone is checking their email all the time like they used to, but everyone has their cell phone on them at all times and especially around the holidays there are a lot of targeted attacks because who doesn't want a $1,000 dollar gift card for free," says Joe DeSantis, with internet security company SecureState.

The offer is too good to be true: enter a pass code on what looks to be a Target or Best Buy website and get a gift card.

Even if you have the prowess to realize it's a scam, how did some hacker somewhere get your cell phone number?

"How many times have we filled out things for either restaurant surveys or fill out this survey and get a coupon? If that information isn't being properly secured, it's very easy to get that data if its saved in clear text or unencrypted data."

Joe DeSantis with Secure State says, in many cases, you yourself are giving away your cell phone number.

"People have their cell phone numbers on Facebook, and what happens is people don't properly secure their Facebook, they don't lock it down, they make that information available publicly."

If for some reason you thought you were a big winner, once you click on the link, you're asked to enter personal information.

"They start out slow and usually ask for more as the attacks go on, so usually you'll see: enter your name, your birthdate, and that may be enough they want to sell that information to a marketing company," says Tom Eston, Internet Response Manager at SecureState.

If the website or text asks for any banking, credit card or social security numbers, and you answer, Eston says you need to consider your identity being stolen at that point.

Let's say you get a spam text message that reads "reply back if you want to be removed from this list"? Do not reply back. Spammers just want to know if they have an active phone number.

Instead, forward that message to your cell phone provider and they can block the number from which it was sent.


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