How to protect your cell phone and avoid getting hacked

SPARTANBURG, SC (WSPA) – Many of us wouldn’t go anywhere nowadays without that supercomputer in our pocket, our cell phones.

Hackers are putting all that private information more at risk than ever, but what many don’t realize is that we are often the ones handing them the keys.

From scam texts to shady apps, how to protect your phone in this 7NEWS Consumer Exclusive.

The sound of a new text can delight, distract, or disappoint. Our 7NEWS crew was not hard pressed to find one person after another familiar with spam and scam texts.

“There was one text that was extremely suspicious. It had the Google photo of my son,” said Paul Fischer.

And remember those scam texts from your own number? Many people, like John Carrol, got those pretending to be a gift from your phone carrier for paying your bill.

“I feel like maybe I’m a magnet,” said Carroll, referring to all the scam texts he gets.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU CLICK ON SCAM TEXTS LINKS?

Reynard Misae has, perhaps, the most extreme scam text history, because he actually clicked on a scam text link, one he thought was coming from his university, and got flooded with more scam texts.

“I got this text that said hey, you’ve been selected for some sort of reward, would you like to participate? I clicked, it opens it, and it’s like a bootleg site, and I’m like this isn’t a university site. When you click on malicious links basically it doesn’t instantly try to scam you always, potential it would first put your number into whoever’s database and then it will pass it around to other scammers, because once you block one person there’s a whole nest of them to come bite you,” said Misae.

Misae said he was bombarded day after day with scam texts and calls, a scam technique known as doxingwhere your number and private information are shared on the dark web.

SIGNS A TEXT IS A SPAM/SCAM:

Keep in mind, many legitimate businesses nowadays send texts from a truncated number. If you get one from a 10-digit number, be cautious.

Also, before you click on any link, check that address for clues since it may not tie back to the company. And never click on any shorthand link that conceals the address.

Finally, if it’s the first text from that purported company that has ever come through, that’s a big red flag.

HOW TO BLOCK SCAM TEXTS:

So how do you filter out unwanted texts? There are three main ways:

  • through your phone settings
  • contact your mobile carrier
  • download call blocking apps

Using all three methods might be most effective. This Federal Trade Commission site offers helpful information on those methods, plus how to report spam and scam texts.

WHY YOU SHOULD READ APP PERMISSIONS:

It’s not just malicious links that put our phones at risk.

Phil Yanov, the founder of Tech After Five, said beware of downloading fast spreading apps.

“They told us all along there’s an app for that, but what they didn’t tell us is those apps are using us, right? So, all those apps we might be loading, particularly the free ones, if the app is free then you are the product. Basically, they are selling your data to somebody else to do something else. So, what do we need to do? You need to be really suspicious of free apps,” Yanov said.

And cyber experts warn, be extra speculative with apps that request your photo, like FaceApp that ages your photo and New Profile Pic that turns your photo into artwork. Those creative alterations are fun, but you have no control over where those images end up.

“I noticed its spreading fast, and a lot of friends have downloaded it and done lots of pics with it and I thought maybe I need to do this. And I looked and I thought maybe I don’t,” said Pam Harrison in Spartanburg.

Reading app permissions is more important than ever. But as Spartanburg Community College student Natalie Lee admits, few make the effort.

“It’s kind of an impulse thing. You have to have your friends come up to you and be like this is so cool you’ve got to download it. It’s those moments where ‘Oh, OK, I’m going to download it.’ So, since they are right beside you, you just have to hurry up and do all the permissions, like, they’ve already gone through it, why not?” said Natalie Lee, a student at USC Upstate.

Whether it’s text scams or downloading apps, Misae warns there is no quick fix to a hack. He had to change his number and sim card, and he still gets the occasional scam text.

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