Mobile carriers like Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile have reported an increased amount of unwanted text messages being delivered to their customers’ devices. The FCC has also posted messages about how to avoid clicking on dangerous or malicious links sent through text messages.
How can you protect yourself and your family? Learn about smishing!
What is smishing?
Similar to a “phishing” scam — where computer users receive an authentic-looking email that appears to be from their bank, Internet Service Provider (ISP), favorite store or other organization – “smishing” messages are sent to you via SMS (text message) on your mobile phone. Scammers like smishing because users tend to trust text messages, as opposed to email, of which people are more suspicious due to phishing attacks.
What do some of these smishing messages look like?
Smishing messages usually include some key elements:
- Your name. With mobile phone information increasingly becoming part of public records, scammers can usually get their hands on the primary name associated with a mobile phone number.
- A well-known company. Scammers send out malicious content with the expectation that the recipient uses the service or the company that they claim in their message. The most common companies seen in smishing messages include: Amazon, Netflix, Internal Revenue Service (IRS), United States Postal Service (USPS), Bank of America and VISA. While large, national companies are most commonly impersonated in smishing messages, sometimes scammers will direct their attacks at specific regions and impersonate local companies. Most recently in Tennessee, First Horizon Bank (previously First Tennessee Bank) was impersonated for smishing.
- An ultimatum, a threat, or a sense of urgency. Scammers try to get your attention as quickly as possible, usually by using trigger words like, “immediately,” “promptly,” and “overdue” or by using legal words like “prosecution.” Scammers prey on the recipient’s trust of text messages being the fastest way of contacting someone.
- Too good to be true. Some scammers try to get your attention by giving good news like winning a sweepstakes or a lottery.
- Links. These links are usually shortened to fit in a text message, and commonly lead to malicious websites setup to mimic real websites.
What should you do?
- DO NOT click the link.
- Promptly DELETE the message.
Thinking about responding? Don’t! Responding to a smishing message only confirms that your number is valid and accepts text messages.
If you’re concerned that a smishing message might be a legitimate attempt to contact you, reach out to the company via their website, their certified mobile app or via a publicly available phone number.