Man holding cell phone and texting

Because of its ease of use, text messaging, the go-to method of communication for marketing and has benefited almost every industry in the business world. Most people always have their phones in hand, and, more often than not, sending a text is more useful than sending an email. Businesses and even our government have taken advantage of using text messages to get their messages to people quickly and more efficiently. Studies have shown that the majority of incoming text messages are opened within 15 minutes of receipt. Hackers are well aware of this, and they too are taking advantage of this.

Text message or SMS (short message system) phishing is also called “smishing.” Smishing occurs when scammers use fake text messages to entice consumers into providing their personal or financial information. The scam artists that send smishing messages often impersonate a government agency, bank, or other company to lend legitimacy to their claims. Smishing messages typically ask consumers to provide usernames and passwords, credit and debit card numbers, PINs, or other sensitive information that scam artists can use to commit fraud. They also provide dangerous links in hopes the victim will click on it providing them easy access to their data.

These types of attacks are on the rise, and, like other scams, the goal is for it to look legitimate. Here are a few things to remember:

  • No government agencies, banks, and other legitimate companies will ever ask for personal or financial information, like usernames, passwords, PINs, or credit or debit card numbers via text message.
  • Never click on links in unsolicited text messages. Clicking the link may infect your mobile device with a virus or malware designed to steal the personal or financial information stored on the device.
  • Don’t respond to smishing messages. Not even to tell the sender to stop texting you. Responding to smishing messages verifies that your phone number is active and that you are willing to open such messages, which may lead to an increase in the unsolicited text messages you receive.
  • Be selective to whom you provide your cell phone number to in response to pop-up advertisements and “free trial” offers. This personal information can be easily bought, sold, and traded, and make you a target for smishing scams.
  • Don’t be fooled by the sense of urgency in an unsolicited text message. Smishing scams attempt to create a false sense of urgency by implying that an immediate response is required.

Your cell phone essentially has the same capabilities as your computer or laptop and thus the same safety and security practices should be used. Always keep your security software and applications up to date and be extremely cautious of text messages from unknown senders.