You are probably familiar with email phishing, where a scammer sends you an email and tries to extract sensitive information such as your credit card details or your social security number. “Smishing” is phishing based on SMS, fraudulent text messages designed to trick you.

What is smishing?

By now, almost everyone has come across phishing scams through spam emails. For example, someone may pretend to be from your bank and ask you to provide account information, social security numbers, or credit card details.

Smishing is just the SMS version of phishing scams. Instead of a scam email, you receive a scam text message on your smartphone. “SMS” stands for “short message service” and is the technical term for text messages that you receive on your phone.

The new SMS parcel delivery scam is a perfect example of smishing. People receive text messages claiming to be from FedEx with a tracking code and a link to “set delivery preferences”.

If you tap this link on your phone (and you shouldn’t), you’ll end up on a fake Amazon site (a phishing site) with a fraudulent “free reward”. The site will ask for your credit card information for “delivery charges”. If you provide payment details, you will be billed $ 98.95 each month.

Lowell spam text on iPhone

This is just one example. An SMS phishing scheme may pretend to be from your bank and ask you to enter your social security number. Or, it may pretend to be from another legitimate organization and ask you to load potentially dangerous software onto your phone. The possibilities are limitless.

Soon: PSA: Watch out for this new SMS parcel delivery scam

Spam: not just for emails

Most people are aware of spam emails, and email clients have excellent spam filters that catch a lot of junk mail before you see it. It is therefore not surprising that the crooks have turned to other media.

You will come across different types of fraudulent phone calls like Wangiri or the one ring phone scam on landlines and cell phones. Phishing attacks are also taking place on Facebook and other social media services.

SMS phishing is still something that many people have never encountered. Scammers rely on people being less skeptical of an email than they would be and not looking too closely. We wouldn’t be surprised to see smishing become more and more common as scammers look for more people to cheat.

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How to protect yourself from smishing scams

A woman sitting at a table looking at a smartphone and drinking coffee.

You need to be on your guard for scam text messages, just as you need to be on your guard against malicious emails. All of the standard tips for dealing with phishing emails also apply to smishing:

  • Look at the source of the text message. For example, if Amazon always sends you a delivery alert from a specific number and a new message arrives in that conversation, that suggests it’s real. However, crooks can fake (spoof) an SMS number, just as they can spoof Caller ID on a phone.
  • Watch out for anything suspicious. If you receive a delivery alert for a new number, especially if you weren’t expecting delivery, that alert is potentially suspicious. We recommend that you avoid opening links in potentially unsafe text messages.
  • Avoid entering information after tapping a link in a text message. For example, if you receive a “fraud alert” that says it is from your bank, don’t press the link in the message and log in. Instead, go directly to your bank’s website or call your bank on the phone and ask if the alert message was legitimate.
  • Do not send sensitive information in response to strange texts. Someone texting you pretending to be a legitimate business or sending a message like “Hey, this is your wife, I just got a new phone – what’s your social security number again?” It is a good idea to contact that company or person directly to make sure that you are not talking to an impersonator who is trying to cheat on you.
  • Watch out for things that are “too good to be true,” like “free” rewards that require your credit card number for some reason.
  • Do not download or install any software that has been sent to you by text or email.

How to block SMS spam

IPhones and Android phones allow you to automatically block text messages that contain spam. Just like blocking spam phone calls, you will install an application that contains a blacklist of suspected spammers. When you receive a message from one of these suspicious numbers, it will be automatically filtered.

If you receive a lot of spam text messages, we strongly recommend that you take action and proactively block them with such an app. If you only get a few spam messages, you can always manually block the number sending them on iPhone or Android. Just be careful and think twice before disclosing sensitive information.