Scam artists targeting cell phones

(WAVE) - It's the new frontier for scam artists. Your cell phones are no longer safe. Across Kentuckiana, people are getting hit with bogus text messages from crooks trying to steal their credit card information.

Tim Karnes never imagined his cell phone would be a direct line to scanners.

"It's your lifeline," Karnes said. "When you go purchase a cell phone it's private to you."

So when he got a text message telling him a pending a alert has been placed on your credit union credit card, he dialed the number on the screen to see what was wrong. An automated voice asked him to type in his credit card number and that immediately raising his suspicions.

"Bells and whistles started going off in my head," said Karnes.

Karnes hung up and called his credit union, Chemco Credit Union, instead. He found out the text didn't come from them. It was a scam. Karnes said other customers at Chemco and three other credit unions around town were targeted too.

Reanna Hamblin-Smith with the Louisville Better Business Bureau said what happened to Tim is the new phase of "phishing."

"Phishing" is defined as phony emails using fake bank or credit card logos. The senders were scammers, hoping to trick people into giving up bank account information. Hamblin-Smith said the text Karnes got is like phishing over the phone.

"They can send so many texts at once it's an easy way to scam someone," said Hamblin-Smith. "And that is what they are doing. It works."

That's because not everyone is savvy enough to sniff out the scam. Karnes didn't enter in his credit card information, but he says an elderly woman at his credit union did. She had to cancel her accounts after finding out the truth.

The BBB says crooks can get people's cell phone numbers lots of different ways, including hacking, buying it online, or dumpster diving.

But Karnes said the only common thread he can think of is everyone who got the phony text message had T-Mobile phones. Karnes said he told T-Mobile what happened and ask them to warn their other customers, but claims T-Mobile told them there was nothing it could do.

T-Mobile and Chemco Credit Union have not responded to calls for comment about what happened. The number in the text message Karnes called is now disconnected.

The Better Business Bureau says if you get a text message like Karnes received, you should call your bank or credit card company first. Remember, they already have your personal information and shouldn't need you to give it to them. That's a huge red flag.

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