By AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION NEWS

0609-Feature-Menu warnings_TOHSomeone posing as an American Heart Association executive is sending illegal text messages to consumers in an attempt to gain personal information.

The messages are illegal spam and the senders are not AHA representatives.

The messages, which claim to be from AHA chief executive Nancy Brown or chief mission officer Meighan Girgus, say they’re contacting the recipient for a job, but need more information. In some cases, there is an offer to send the recipient a check to cash and wire money back to them. Or, the messages ask for personal information such as a Social Security number.

AHA contacts job candidates by phone or email, but not by text.

In addition, the AHA will not contact anyone requesting personal information such as account passwords, personal identification numbers or Social Security numbers.

The text messages represent the latest example of how fraudsters are using technology to access personal information. Messages that come with grammatical errors, an unknown number or address or requesting immediate information should raise a flag that something isn’t right, said M. Lewis Kinard, AHA’s assistant general counsel.

“If it seems too easy to be real or too good to be true, it probably is,” Kinard said. “The bottom line is: Be skeptical.”

Do not provide any personal or financial information to unknown individuals, whether by phone or email.

Anyone who has received one of the spam text messages, or been sent one of the fraudulent checks, should report it to any and all agencies that will take a report, Kinard said.

“Your report may be the last one they need to go after whoever is doing this, or it may provide an important data point that is missing,” he said. “It does help, even if it doesn’t seem like that right away or mean that you will get your money back.”

The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center received nearly 270,000 complaints in 2014, with a growing number of the scams using social media platforms.

Fake check scams were the third most common complaint, accounting for 16.5 percent received by the National Consumers League’s Fraud.org, according to John Breyault, vice president of public policy.

“If you do engage, be aware that you are likely to get additional solicitations, either by text message or by phone,” Breyault said.

Text message scams may create unwanted charges on your mobile phone bill, slow down your phone’s performance, or install malware that collects information from your phone if you click on message links, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Information collected may be sold to marketers or used by identify thieves.

Here’s what the FTC recommends that people do if they have received text message spam:

  • Delete text messages that ask you to confirm or provide personal information.
  • Don’t reply and don’t click on links provided in the message.
  • Don’t give out your personal information such as a Social Security number or bank or credit card information via text message.
  • Place your mobile phone number on the National Do Not Call Registry.
  • Report the texts to your carrier. AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint and Bell subscribers can copy the original message and forward it to the number 7726 (SPAM), free of charge.
  • Check your mobile phone bill and report unauthorized charges to your carrier.

If you’ve already given personal information in response to a fraudulent text message, there are several important steps to take, Breyault said.

  • Put a fraud alert or credit free on your credit report.
  • Review your credit report (available free from annualcreditreport.com) and dispute any suspicious lines of credit opened in your name.
  • File your 2016 taxes as early as possible; you may have increased risk for tax identification fraud.
  • If you cashed the check and wired money, get in touch with the money transfer service to try to stop the transaction.

To contact authorities about fraud attempts: