A scam that originated when you may have still owned a flip phone is surging. “Smishing” is a text messaging scam that attempts to trick you into sharing accounts or personal information.
The AARP, BBB, and FTC have all issued warnings that “smishing” scams are responsible for victims losing a combined $54 million in 2020. In the U.K. smishing scams are up close to 700% since the first of the year.
What is “Smishing”? The term is derived from the combination of phishing (an attempt to trick you into clicking a link) and SMS or text messaging. In short, the same type of scam you may get in an email but sent by text.
In recent days people have been sharing photos of smishing messages sent to their phones promising a special gift, or a gift card. I recently received a ‘smishing’ text that said a package was to be delivered to my address but that since no one was home, it would be sent back to the warehouse. A follow-up text said the reason it could not be left on the doorstep is that it has an
unusually high value, followed by an iPhone emoji.
Each text includes a phone number or link you’re supposed to click or tap to be taken to a website for more information. In the case of a message I received, I was taken to a website asking me to sign into my Microsoft Outlook account. If I had entered my email address and password for the account, the scammers could sign into my account. If you use the same password for multiple accounts, the scammers could try that too.
While scams in an email opened on a computer can install malware on your computer the likelihood of that happening on a smartphone is minimal since smartphone security is much better than on a PC or even a Mac.
Why is this decade-old scam surging? It very well might be because scammers are having more trouble sending robocalls than before. The federally mandated technology called “STIR/SHAKEN” is now being used by all the major carriers to confirm a phone call is coming from a verified number. Also, many people use robocall blocking apps or security installed on the phone.
Neither can block spam or scam texts.
What should you do if you receive a smishing text message? First and foremost: do nothing. Do not tap on the link, do not call a number, do not reply “Stop” to the text. Do not act on it at all. You can forward the text to 7226 (Scam) and report it to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.