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Smishing Scams: Everything You Need to Know

By Jayme Cook on April 4th, 2018

Most email users have caught on to the scam involving the generous Nigerian prince who wants to share his inheritance with them, so modern crooks have had to improvise. Cyber criminals have now revamped the practice of “smishing,” or Short Message Service (SMS) phishing. These scams work the same way that email phishing works in that the main goal is to extract personal information from victims in order to commit various acts of identity theft, only now the assault comes via cellphone. So if you own a cellphone, it is important to understand what smishing is and to learn to protect yourself to keep from falling prey to these potentially devastating attempts at identity theft.

The Scam

The deviance of these smishing scams is that they make the victims believe that something needs their immediate attention. They create a sense of urgency or panic. Scammers may send a message to potential marks that appears to be from their bank that warns them of an unauthorized charge. A link or phone number is included but if you click or call, the scammer is able to collect more sensitive information from you. Instead of falling for their ploy, it’s best to use your bank’s app to check the validity of the message and call the verified bank phone number. Lastly, delete any suspicious texts in order to keep your information safe.

Additionally, certain smishers are able to disguise their messages to appear to be from someone in your contacts, someone you trust. If you receive a strange text from a friend, call him or her to ask if they actually sent the message before clicking any link or number.

The Problem

In 2016, the FBI reported that cyber crime robbed Americans of $1.3 billion. With the surge in cyber crime and the insidious nature of the scams, the FBI estimates that number with rise significantly in the next few years.

One factor in this issue is that people do not use different passwords for their various account. The password for your social media account should be different from your password for your bank app. Two-factor authentication works well in blocking the attempts of cyber criminals as do and password managers.

The Solutions

Step one is combating smishing is to be vigilant in monitoring your transactions and to immediately report any odd transactions. Text messages from phone numbers you do not recognize should top you off to check your finances. They may also present themselves as a government agency or reputable company in order to feign credibility. To avoid being misled, keep the following in mind:

  • Banks, agencies of the government agencies and other reputable companies will not request your financial or personal through text message. Any text that does so is fraudulent.
  • Don’t fall for the urgency ploy. Smishing scams rely on knee jerk reactions. 
  • Don’t click any links included in unsolicited text messages. The link may be infectious or may harvest your sensitive information. 
  • Do not respond to the text message. Replying to the sender could also allow them access to your private data.
  • Be selective in providing your phone number to pop-up ads and “free trial” offers. These entities are quick to sell your contact information to anyone.

As cyber criminals become craftier, the average person must strive to stay one step ahead of them. Protecting your privacy and identity requires vigilance and diligence.