Houston - March Madness play begins this week, before the NCAA men's basketball tournament ends in Houston for the Final Four. With so much attention expected on the games, scammers will be focused on fans.
As they head out of town, the UH Cougars are hoping to take a long road that leads back to NRG Stadium. They look to join the select few schools to win on their home turf. So, too, are the Texas Southern Tigers, though they're more of a long shot.
Either way, millions will be glued to each of the games as brackets get busted and whittled down from 68 teams to one final winner.
It's a built-in audience for scammers. "The scammers said, 'Boy, we are addicted to our phones', and we open those messages," says cybersecurity expert George Cray, of New Jersey firm iconectiv. He says, like the recent holidays, scammers are turning to text messages to get our attention, with messages that suggest we need to provide some bit of information to fix a problem.
Industry statistics show 97% of people will take a moment to look at a text, even if they don't know who sent it.
"NCAA March Madness will not be free of scams," says Cray. During the tournament, text messages might suggest a ticket sale didn't go through, or there's a betting opportunity on an upcoming game, often with an urgency to respond.
With so many people willing to, simply, look at the text, thieves need just a few to react to make it worth their while.
"They build a story that makes it sound legitimate," warns Cray. "The first thing you need to do is step back, not click the link, and not provide the sensitive information. You can't trust it. That's got to be the first reaction."
So, rather than blindly clicking on a text link that appears in your inbox, go directly to the business phone or website, if there's a chance that it's legitimate. There's another level of protection in messages that come from five or six-digit numbers.
Those are registered with the mobile providers as legitimate accounts.
Either way, it can limit the chance that the wrong person gets your information.