Consumer Reports: Protect yourself from check scams, smishing, shimmers

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While some scams may be easier to detect than others, it doesn't mean you could never fall for one. (WLS)

Ever get the sense there's something fishy about that Nigerian prince asking you for money?

While some scams may be easier to detect than others, it doesn't mean you could never fall for one.

Consumer Reports dove into some of the latest schemes to help protect you in a growing world of threats.

Pat Slaven dropped off a check in her local collection mailbox. A few weeks later, she was shocked to see what her banking statement showed.

"When I saw this check online, I went, 'Who's Eileen Medina?' That handwriting is too neat. I didn't write that," Slaven said.

She was the victim of a scam. The check was stolen from the mailbox, bleached and rewritten for twice the amount.

"Data shows that everyone - irrespective of age, gender - has the potential to be scammed. Like everything else, scams have moved into the digital space," Consumer Reports Money Editor Margot Gilman said.

The latest scam hitting mobile phones? Smishing.

You get a fake text saying there's a problem with something like your bank account. If you respond to the text, the scammer will know the number is viable and may contact you to get more personal information.

"Never click on a link in an email or text without first confirming that it's from someone you trust. If you get a phone call from someone asking for information and it sounds even remotely fishy, hang up," Gilman said.

Next up, "shimmers." It's a thin card-sized gadget that scam-artists install on ATMs or gas pumps that have chip card readers.

"ATMs installed at a bank tend to be a lot safer than the kind you might find at a convenience store, which can be so much more easily tampered with," Gilman said.

Then there's "tech-support fraud." Your computer freezes, and a pop-up tells you immediately to call a number for tech support. You're then connected to a fraudulent technician who might ask for remote access to your device.

Consumer Reports said not to click on any suspicious pop-ups and never give remote access to your device to anyone you don't know and absolutely trust.
As for Slavin, she got all her money back by filing a police report, staying persistent and following up with her bank.

If you think you've been a victim of a scam, Consumer Reports said to immediately report it to the police - an essential step if you want to make an insurance claim on stolen property - and report compromised credit or debit card information to the bank.

All Consumer Reports material Copyright 2017 Consumer Reports, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Consumer Reports is a not-for-profit organization which accepts no advertising. It has no commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor on this site. For more information visit
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