Now I Get It: What are 'smishing' scams?

By Kate Murphy 

Most people are probably aware of the fraud term phishing. When phishing emails are sent, they’re meant to lure users to surrender personal information by purporting to be from the government, a bank, or a reputable company. The end game is to steal someone’s identity.

With smartphone use on the rise, phishing scammers are moving to fresher waters and targeting people via text messages. It’s called smishing, and it’s a combination of the terms SMS text messaging and phishing.

According to a study by Cloudmark, the number of spam text messages designed to defraud people is seven times that of email spam. Research also suggests that cellphone users are three times more likely than computer users to respond to spam.

Here are some smishing examples to watch out for:

  • “IRS Notice: Tax Return File Overdue! Click here to enter your information to prevent being prosecuted.”
  • “We have identified some unusual activity on your online banking. Please log in via [URL] to secure your account.”
  • “Your entry last month has WON. Congratulations! Go to [URL] and enter your winning code to claim your $1,000 Best Buy gift card!”

Here are some tips to help with your smishing self-defense:

  • Don’t call the number or reply to texts asking for personal or financial information.
  • Be aware that banks and legitimate companies don’t send unsolicited texts, and government agencies don’t contact people through text messages.
  • Ignore instructions to text “STOP” or “NO,” because this will let scammers know your phone number is active.

You can forward smishing texts to 7726, which spells out the word SPAM, on most keypads. This will alert your cellphone carrier to block future texts.

And when in doubt, just delete the text message.

 

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