I have written before about phishing and how to avoid identity theft or other crimes associated with cyber-theft., but with the popularity of smart phone, criminals have also taken advantage of this new technology
In mobile computing, Smishing is a form of criminal activity using social engineering techniques similar to phishing. The name is derived from “SMs phISHING”. SMS (Short Message Service) is the technology used for text messages on cell phones.
Similar to phishing, smishing uses cell phone text messages to deliver the “bait” to get you to divulge your personal information. The “hook” (the method used to actually “capture” your information) in the text message may be a web site URL, however it has become more common to see a phone number that connects to automated voice response system.
You may have received text messages asking you to join contest, or telling you that you have already won contest ..that you haven’t entered.
Scammers are constantly posting rogue apps on Facebook, putting malware links in Tweets, and sending you phishing e-mails. All for the hopes of baiting you with their schemes.
Most phishing scams play on human fear of any of the following:
- Loss of your money
- Identity theft
- Harm to your family
- something embarrassing being revealed about you (whether it is true or not)
Hoping that fear will override common sense, the user may fall prey to taking the bait, because after all you thought you were “too smart” to be fooled by such a thing. A lot of phishing attacks which end up being successful likely go unreported because the victims are ashamed and don’t want people to think they were gullible enough to get conned.
Phishers like other scammers retool their scams over time learning which ones work, and which don’t. Given the short nature of SMS messages, phishers have a very limited canvas on which to work so they have to be extra creative in a smishing attack
Here are a few tips to help you tell spot SMiShing scam texts
- Review your bank’s and/or credit card company’s policy on sending text messages.
Many banks don’t send text messages because they don’t want people to fall for smishing attacks. If they do send texts find out what number they use to generate them so you will know if they are legitimate. The scammers may use spooed alias numbers that look like they are from your bank, so you should still be skeptical and not reply directly. Contact your bank either via phone or from a different computer to verify if the text was legit or not.
- Beware of messages that have a number that says it is from “5000″
Email-to-Text services often list 5000 or some other number that is not a cell number as where they originated from. Scammers are likely to mask their identity by using Email-to-Text services so that their actual phone number is not revealed.
- Ask yourself if the suspicious text could be a scam
If the message content fits into one of the above fear categories above, be extra skeptical. If it is threatening in any way to your or your family members, report it to the local authorities and also to the Internet Crime Complaint Center
- Never reply to a suspicious text without doing research and verifying the source.
If it is really your bank texting you, then they should know exactly what you are talking about when you call them using the phone number on your latest statement. If they say there are no issues with your account, then the text was obviously bogus.
Defense against Smishing
- Use Common Sense – if you didn’t sign up for something, they wouldn’t contact you, and if there is an emergency, you would more that likey get a call rather than a text message.
- Use Your Cell Providers Text Alias Feature
Almost all major cell providers allow you to setup an Text Alias that you can use to receive texts. The texts still come to your phone and you can send texts, but anyone you text sees your alias instead of your actual number. You can then block incoming texts from your real number and give all your friends and family the alias you are using. Since scammers most likely won’t guess your alias and can’t look it up in a phone book, using an alias should cut down on the number of spam and smishing texts you receive.
- Enable the “block texts from the internet” feature if available from your cell provider
Most spammers, scammers and smishers send texts via an internet text relay service which helps hide their true identity and also doesn’t count against their text allowance (scammers are notoriously frugal). Many cell providers will let you turn on a feature that will block texts that come in from the internet. This is another easy way to cut down on spam and smishing e-mail
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