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smartphone in hand with blank screenWe all love to use our cell phones, mobile devices and search engines; at work, in class, while out with friends — but scammers love it when we use them, too.

Phishing, which is the attempt by both people and machines to collect personal information, has been a more prevalent issue of late. Since mobile carrier companies like Verizon and AT&T have opted for unlimited SMS, more spammers and scammers are targeting cell phone users.

Neil Cook, the CTO of messaging security vendor Cloudmark Inc., has watched the increase in the trend very closely. The security company broke down its data in order to show how phishing affected consumers:

Back in April, they found that 39% of Chicago-bound phishing messages were centered around banking schemes because April is tax month. Cloudmark watched as the number of messaging scams grew from 0% on April 9, to 85% on April 10, then coming to rest at 92% on April 15 — tax day. The company was able to determine that the scammers were targeting those who chose to put their refunds on an Achieve prepaid debit card.

According to the Internet Crime Complain Center, which collaborates with the FBI, found that about 70% of fraud victims were scammed through websites, such as online auctions, while 30% were scammed via email. These numbers are expected to climb exponentially over the next few years.

For businesses large and small, this is a major concern for their employees and their profits. To prevent scamming, companies might want to first begin looking at the more common communications tools in their offices and the threats that challenge these systems — spam and phishing.

Cook explained that event-based scamming (such as the April 15 trend) is quite common, and is most concerning because the scams can look real. Scammers have become so sophisticated as to create faux sources, and are timed in a way that people believe they are legit. The rabbit hole goes further: You may be a member of a bank that is in good standing and respectable and uses a trusted broker, but the broker may be using a less than ideal company.

“Safeguarding personal information is key to surviving in a cyber-security world,” said Cook. “The more infor they know about you, the more they’ll spam you.”

Since 2012, the monetary loss of scam complaints has exceeded $300 million annually, with identity theft being the number one internet scam complaint. To curb this number of complaints, Cloudmark launched a Spam Reporting Service nearly two years ago that many companies are now operating under. When the companies receive a spam email or a phishy-looking message, they simply send it to Cloudmark which will filter out the scams and figure out where it came from. Since the implementation of the program, millions of messages have been received from their customers.

To prevent getting scammed, don’t send money to someone you don’t know, don’t agree to wire money overseas, and never reply to a message asking for personal information.

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