As text messaging becomes more prevalent around the world, text message scams are also becoming more common. The fraudsters sending these messages continue to evolve their techniques, getting increasingly convincing to lure personal information. This personal information can be used to access bank accounts or other online accounts like your email.
Smishing uses highly convincing text messages to trick someone into providing private information or downloading malicious programs to a mobile phone.
What is smishing?
Another term for scam text messages, smishing — short for “SMS phishing” — is a form of phishing that uses a convincing text message to try and trick you into providing private information or downloading malicious programs onto your mobile phone.
Since we are on our phones so much, this fraud is especially insidious, especially because smishing messages often seem legitimate.
Warning signs that a text message is a scam
Smishing often looks legitimate and tends to prey on fear or excitement to encourage you to act. You may be offered free prizes, gift cards or coupons. Some smishing scams even promise to help pay off debt like student loans. Other smishing messages might say there’s suspicious activity on your account, contain a fake package delivery notification, or falsely claim there is a problem with your payment information.
Additional signs that a text is a scam:
- It asks you to tap or click a link to verify your personal information
- It asks you to provide your personal information by calling or texting a phone number
- It comes from an unknown or unfamiliar number
- The sender claims to be a government agency such as the Internal Revenue Service (the government rarely if ever initiates contact by phone or text)
How to protect yourself from texting scams
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recommends the following to help you avoid texting scams:
- Do not respond to texts from unknown numbers, or any others that seem suspicious
- Never share your personal or financial information by text
- Don’t tap or click on links in a text message — and if a friend sends you a link that seems out of character, call them to make sure they really sent it
- If you receive a text from a business, call them to verify that it’s real — look up their number online rather than contacting a number provided in the text
- Report smishing to your wireless service provider by forwarding unwanted texts to 7726 (or “SPAM”)
What to do if you’re a victim of smishing
If you think you’re the victim of a texting scam, report it immediately to your local law enforcement agency. Notify your wireless service provider and financial institutions where you have accounts.
You can also report it to the following government agencies: