A woman using her smartphone is shocked by a smishing scam.

Consumer’s Guide to Smishing Scams

Scammers are constantly finding new ways to steal information from victims, and smishing lets them target users of mobile phones. Smishing scams are not new — they’ve been around for close to a decade, but the rise in home deliveries has reinvigorated interest in this scam. 

The word smishing is an amalgamation of “phishing” and “SMS,” and it refers to phishing scams delivered over text messages. Phishing is a social engineering attack in which a scam artist sends a message to a victim in hopes of obtaining personal or financial information. 

Phishing attackers typically use email, but there are variations. Smishing is one, as is “vishing,” which takes place over voicemail.  

This guide explains the anatomy of a smishing scam and gives you tips to avoid falling prey to these mobile-phone-based traps. Here’s everything you need to know about smishing.

The Anatomy of a Smishing Scam

Man checking his phone in the midst of a smishing scam text

Smishing scammers send bulk texts to a host of potential victims with the hopes of getting some of them to fall for their deception. Smishers don’t need every recipient to bite, only a handful. These scams typically take the following form: 

Pretending to Be From a Legitimate Source

Most smishing texts pretend to be someone they’re not. They may claim to be from a delivery company, a bank, or a hospital; they often claim to be from a phone company or another organization the recipient deals with regularly.

Building Urgency

Smishing scams have to build urgency to increase their potential for success. Scammers do this by telling someone they won’t receive an upcoming delivery unless they pay a delivery fee, or by offering someone a discount on their phone bill if they click a link quickly. 

They often mention time-sensitive deadlines. This is a tactic used by many salespeople, but it also works extremely well with scams. 

Convincing Someone to Click a Fraudulent Link

The urgency is designed to get victims to click links quickly without putting too much thought into their actions. The links typically go to a fake site that’s designed to gather information about victims. It may request their username and login info to a legitimate website or feature a form that asks for all kinds of private details. The links might also download malware onto the victim’s phone. 

Smishing scams often leverage current events to build urgency and convince people to click on the link. Messages about vaccines, medical test results, missed deliveries, and child tax credits are popular themes for smishers. 

How to Protect Yourself From Smishing Scams

Woman checking her phone for spam risk

Understanding the basics of how smishing scams work is the first step in protecting yourself from these types of attacks. These tips should help you catch their deception:

Be Skeptical When Promises Seem Too Good to Be True

Scammers take advantage of people’s hopes to make their scams successful. Be skeptical of any promises that seem too good to be true if you want to avoid becoming a victim. Scammers, for example, may say you can get a check from the government, a credit on a bill, a new car, or other free offers. 

Nothing is free, and falling for these scams can cost you time and money and potentially compromise your Social Security number and other elements of your private financial identity.

Be Skeptical About Threats

Scammers also prey on people’s fears, so smishing attempts don’t always take the approach of offering free items. They might tell victims they won’t receive any more Social Security checks or that their home may be foreclosed upon if they don’t click a link. 

Businesses and government entities typically don’t alert people about serious issues through text messages. They use the mail or verified email addresses. You need to be just as skeptical about threats as you should be about promises.  

Enable Spam Protection

Most modern phones have settings that allow you to enable spam protection. You can do this in the settings section, and your phone will notify you when texts seem to be spam or scams. You should also get on the do-not-call registry. This list prevents legitimate companies from soliciting you over the phone, but it can also help keep your number off the scam artists’ radars. 

Report Scam Messages

You should always report scam messages whenever possible, especially if you fall victim to a smishing attack. You can report spam and scams by forwarding suspicious text messages to 7726 (SPAM) or entering a report on the Federal Trade Commission website. Reporting scams helps ensure other people don’t get tricked by the same scam. 

Don’t Click Links From Strangers

You should never click on links from people you don’t know, and you should also avoid links from messages that you weren’t expecting to receive. You should contact the business or government entity directly if you receive a text message with alarming information, and you should not use any phone numbers provided in the text message. You should use the numbers you usually call to contact those entities.

Smishing messages are growing in popularity, and as scammers become more successful, these attacks also become more convincing. Protect yourself by being skeptical, by using spam-blocking tools, and by never clicking links or accepting downloads you weren’t expecting or from people you don’t know.

Contact Shred Cube to Protect Your Digital Life Today

Protecting yourself from the increasing number of digital threats is critical, and you need to take a multipronged approach to be successful. Shred Cube gives your computer an additional layer of security by permanently removing digital files you no longer need. 

Here’s the problem: Your files stay on your PC or laptop when you use the typical deletion process, and even emptying your recycle bin doesn’t remove them completely. Shred Cube permanently removes your deleted files so bad actors can never steal that information through a phishing scam or by any other route. 

The app comes on a USB drive rather than a downloadable link, so you never have to worry about accidentally downloading malware from a malicious source. Contact us at our office today to learn more.