Few of us can imagine going a day without using our cellphones. For many people, it’s become their preferred method of communicating and doing business. Scammers take advantage of our reliance on cellphones and use them to trick us into giving them our personal information. It’s important to be aware of the kinds of scams they use.

One common scam is phishing. Thieves “phish” by sending emails or text messages claiming to be from authentic organizations, like credit unions, to get you to reveal your private information.

These phishing scam can come in two forms: vishing or smishing attacks. Both aim to trick people into revealing their Social Security numbers, credit union account numbers, personal identification numbers (PINs), passwords, etc. Usually, the messages use scare-tactics to make you panic and act quickly. For example, they will say your account will be terminated unless you act immediately.

The term “vishing” comes from “voice” plus “phishing” This involves the fraudster claiming to be from a company or financial institution, calling you and requiring that you provide or confirm personal information. For example, they might send a recording informing you that your credit card has been used illegally. You are asked to call an 800 number and confirm account details. The consumer’s answers are saved and later used to commit identity theft.

The term “smishing” comes from “SMS” plus “phishing” (SMS stands for “short message service,” or text messaging). In smishing, the thief attempts to get your information by sending a text message instead of calling.

A common smishing ploy goes like this: You receive a text message, seemingly from your credit union, stating that your account has been closed. To reactivate it, you’re told to click on a link they provide. When you do, you’re asked to enter your account number and PIN. The link may also install malware to your phone.

It’s important that you never click on the links or call phone numbers listed in messages from unexpected or unfamiliar sources. The best protection against either vishing or smishing comes down to a simple strategy: Don’t respond.

If it’s a vishing scam, refuse to answer questions and hang up. If it’s a smishing attack, don’t do what the text message instructs you to do. If the scammer claims to be from Coosa Valley Credit Union, call us immediately to let us know. Then block the number on your phone.

Remember, Coosa Valley Credit Union will never ask you for personal information over the phone or by e-mail. We already have this information. If you’re unsure if the message is legitimately from us, simply call us directly at 706-235-8551 to ask.