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What is Smishing?

Updated: Oct 13, 2021

Have you ever received a text message that seems suspicious or is just too good to be true? Or maybe you've got a bank text that's unexpected or you say you've won something? Don't be too precipitous. A sloppy click can cost you thousands because it may smell – a common technique of scamming.

What is Smishing?

A smishing scam – a "SMS" and "phishing" portmanteau – uses text messages to target your money, identity, or information. Like phishing, it's a fake text message sent by cyber criminals trying to trick you into sending your data or money. Here's how they might look:

  • A message pretending to be from another official government entity requesting your personal data;

  • A message from a bank requesting to send your credit card details or log-in information;

  • A message with a connection requiring your credit card details to access something;

  • A message stating that someone you know is in trouble and asking you to send money;

  • A fake lottery victory that asks you to send your data to claim your winnings; unsubscribe messages stating that you should press the link, enter data or pay money to stop using a certain service (which you may never even have heard of);

  • An odd fake message from a legitimate or even the number of your friend. Malware can infect an "innocent" computer and send these messages.

These are just a couple of examples. Like phishing emails, a wide variety of scenarios could be used by hackers. However, all of them will ask you to take action by logging into a website, entering your data, and so on. They might also send a fake number to contact a fake member. But there are ways that this can be detected and avoided.

Identifying a Smishing Message

Definitely watch out for:

  • Urgency. Messages will urge you to act swiftly. They want you to respond before you have time to think or have reservations about the validity of the email;

  • Sensitive Requests. Many legitimate businesses take care to make it clear that they will never ask you in a message for your username or credit card details;

  • Odd phone numbers. If you notice an unusual number (e.g. "5000" or the like), it may be another warning. An email sent as a text message is usually indicated. Cyber criminals like this technique, but it could also be used by legitimate senders;

  • Links. The message may contain an odd or shortened link that may seem legitimate but is not;

Avoiding these Attacks

You can take these steps to protect yourself:

  • Do not answer the email, even if it asks you to reply in order to avoid more messages. When you respond, you indicate to scammers that you have an active telephone number and that you are likely to receive a follow-up;

  • Bear in mind that official organizations and banks do not usually request personal information or money like this;

  • If in doubt, you should always call the legitimate number of the organization, person or company that claims to contact you and ask if the message is actually sent. Alternatively, you can visit their website or social media page;

  • Report the message to the law enforcement agency at your local or national level;

  • Use common sense. Do not click on any of the links, transfer money or enter your personal information. Do not download apps from links in text messages;

  • Always make sure the latest security updates are in place for your phone and apps.


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