First it was phishing, now 'smishing' is a growing problem

SEATTLE -- Text mail spam is especially annoying, since you pay for that message unless you have an unlimited plan. It's also a growing problem. The New York Times reports that cell phone users in the U.S. received an estimated 4.5 billion spam texts last year. That's more than double the 2.2 billion text spam messages received in 2009.

And the volume of text spam will only increase as more of us get smart phones.

Plus, spammers are now using text messages to snag your personal information. With an email it's called "phishing" but on a cell phone, this scam is called "smishing." The goal is the same only the delivery method is different.

"Smishers" send out catchy text messages that grab your attention and encourage an instant response before you have a chance to think about it. For weeks now, people across the country have complained about getting a spam text message that says you've won a free $1,000 Walmart gift card. But those who click on the link to claim their card end up on a website that asks for personal information.

Because of the flood of complaints, the Better Business Bureau issued a scam alert and Walmart posted a warning on its website explaining the text message isn't from them and there is no $1,000 gift card.

But there are more smish attacks, including one promising a free iPhone: "Apple is looking for people to test and keep the new iPhone 5!"

Those who respond wind up on a site that asks for personal information. Don't do it! There is no iPhone 5.

You might be tempted to respond to a smish or other spam text by sending a message that says "remove" or "stop." But if you do that, the bad guys will know your number is active and they'll just add it to their list and send you more spam messages.

What can you do? Report smish attempts to state and federal law enforcement and send mobile spam to "7726" - a number set up by the wireless industry to get attack this problem (Those numbers spell "SPAM" on most phones.) If you are bothered by specific text spam, contact your wireless company to see if you can block the sender.

If you fall victim to a smishing scam, file complaints with the Internet Crime Prevent Center, Federal Trade Commission and the State Attorney General's office.

Related: Smartphone hacking will rise in 2012, experts warn
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