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Better Business Bureau: Beware of WalMart texting scam

March 17, 2012 at midnight
Updated March 16, 2012 at 10:17 p.m.


By Alan Bligh

I have told you in the past that our next onslaught of scams will come by text messaging.

Here is a good example: consumers are reporting receiving text messages on cell phones that claim they have won a $1,000 Walmart gift card. They are told they need to enter a code word on a website to receive the prize.

Investigators found that once a consumer entered information into the website, it asked the user to download a free software program that would record all keystrokes on a computer.

Downloading the software would give hackers access to personal information, including bank account passwords and other identifying information.

WalMart confirmed that the company was not the source of the text messages.

Investigators found that the phone number sending the texts from a "202" area code was probably from a prepaid cell phone and the website domain was registered in the Bahamas. Surprise, surprise.

We are also alerting consumers of a phone scam in which the caller claims to be from Microsoft. We have seen this before, but it is back with a vengeance.

The callers identify themselves as being from Microsoft tech support and have identified that the consumer's computer had a virus.

The caller offers to solve a consumer's computer problems or sell him or her a software license, all in an effort to gain remote control access to the consumer's computer.

According to Microsoft, once these scammers have access to the computer, they can install malicious software, steal personal information or take control of the computer remotely.

Microsoft's Online Safety and Security Center states that neither Microsoft nor its partners make unsolicited phone calls.

The Texas Attorney General has frozen the assets of AGT American Silver and Gold and issued a temporary restraining order against the Austin company, which sells gold and silver bullion and coins.

The AG order cites many of the same concerns the Better Business Bureau found during its investigation.

The restraining order forbids the defendants from engaging in deceptive practices, including offering a "100 percent guarantee" and "full money back," but failing to honor said claims, misrepresenting the amount of inventory available and failing to deliver gold and silver coins purchased by consumers.

AGT American Silver and Gold has an "F" rating with BBB.

Consumers are reminded to exercise diligence in researching any purchase of gold or silver.

Computer security firm Symantec Corp. recently conducted an elaborate, first-of-its-kind study on lost smartphones. The company set a trap for human nature, then sat back and watched. The results were not pretty.

Symantec researchers intentionally lost 50 smartphones in various cities. Some 43 percent of finders clicked on an app labeled "online banking." A file named "saved passwords" was opened by 57 percent of finders. Social networking tools and personal email were checked by 60 percent. And a folder labeled "private photos" tempted 72 percent.

Collectively, 89 percent of finders clicked on something they probably shouldn't have. Meanwhile, only 50 percent of finders offered to return the gadgets. Rather sad, isn't it.

Alan Bligh is the executive director of the Better Business Bureau in Corpus Christi. Contact him by email at abligh@corpuschristi.bbb.org.

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