It’s Thursday afternoon and a text comes in from a number you don’t recognize: “Hey is this Charles? It’s Amanda. We chatted when I was visiting but we never met in person. I’m in town if you are free this weekend.” You may be tempted to reply and tell them they have the wrong number or maybe you’re adventurous and are interested to see where this goes. Resist the impulse to respond, this is a scam.
Smishing, or SMS (Short Message Service) Phishing, is a scam done via text message. Like the example above, hackers will likely address you with a name to try to make it more personal (“Hey, is this Charles?”) and even if they don’t get the name right, it’s step one in attempts to start a conversation. They may also send photos to further “prove” that they are a real person. The ultimate goal? Gain your trust and acquire your personal information. Don’t fall for their tricks, simply delete the message without replying and block the number.
Another form of smishing is a “bill reminder” or “shipment confirmation” accompanied with a link. With the high frequency of online bill pay and online ordering, it’s not too far-fetched for a scammer to try this tactic. By clicking on the link you open up your phone to possible viruses or entry points allowing the scammer to access your phone and all of its information, including passwords to apps and accounts. If you have not opted into receiving text message notifications regarding your accounts or it comes in unexpectedly, delete the text and block the number.
It’s not just links that you should be skeptical about, some scammers include a phone number to call. Speaking with a live person often feels more secure, however, the phone number could go straight to a criminal posing as a company representative. Always verify the phone number before calling by checking a recent billing statement or going to the official company website. Even if the number looks legitimate, don’t just tap the phone number link to call it. Scammers can display an accurate number within the text, but once you tap the link, they can route it to any number they want. And if the text does not include a company name at all, it’s most likely a scam. Immediately delete it and block the number.
Other smishing examples:
• You’ve won a $100 Walmart gift card! Click here to claim.
• Your Apple account has fraudulent activity. Click this link to change your password.
• The IRS is filing a lawsuit against you. Call this number or a warrant will be put out for your arrest.
Do your due diligence. Ask yourself if it makes sense that you are receiving this text. Review for the red flags we mentioned above and always do some research before interacting. If it doesn’t add up, delete!