One of the newest and most insidious ways that cybercriminals can trick you into compromising your personal information is through text scams, also known as “smishing.” Smishing attempts work much like email or voice phishing, but they are usually sent through a text message or some other messaging platform. Simply receiving a smishing text won’t harm your device; the real damage comes when you click on a nefarious link or respond to the scam.
A typical text scam may offer you a prize, help with a loan, or a low interest credit card. Other texts may look like they are coming from a familiar vendor or service provider, alerting you to suspicious account activity or sending you a fake invoice or overdue bill. The goal of the scammer is to send you a text that you are likely to interact with either because it looks like a good deal, or you fear negative reprisal if you do not respond. The cybercriminals behind these texts may trick you into revealing your user name and password, account information, or other personal details.
One popular scam is to send a text that looks like it’s coming from a well-known shipping company. These texts may alert you that a package is delayed, on its way, or even unable to be delivered. Texts like these often include links with package tracking numbers that, if clicked, might download a dangerous app, run it in your web browser, or infect your device with malware. To track a package that you know is legitimate, go to the company or shipper’s website directly and enter the tracking number you received when you originally ordered the item.
How you can protect yourself:
- Filter out unknown messages. On iPhones, go to Settings, then Messages, then turn on Filter Unknown Senders. On Androids, go to your phone app, click the three vertical dots, go to Settings, then Blocked Numbers, then turn on Unknown.
- Check with your wireless provider. Some wireless providers have the ability to filter out spam and unknown senders, so it is worth giving them a call.
- You can also download a call blocker app that blocks texts on your phone.
- If you are skeptical about a text you receive, trust your instincts. Contacting a vendor or company directly through their website or direct phone number is the safest way to verify communication and to conduct business.
Texting has become one of the most popular and convenient ways to communicate. Remember the most important rule to protect yourself and your personal information: If you do not know the sender of a text, do not reply and do not click any links.