A text message scam, also known as a SMiShing attack, is a form of phishing. Phishing refers to using an email or phone message as a bait or lure to trick an unsuspecting target into divulging valuable information, such as account numbers, passwords, Social Security number, and the like, or to trick him or her into downloading malware onto a computer. With a text message scam, similar techniques are used, except the medium used is the text message.
There are a variety of ways that this type of scam may work. One way is to frighten the recipient. A message purporting to come from a financial institution is sent saying that an account will be closed or has been defaulted on, or that charges will be made to the recipient’s account unless the recipient makes contact and provides necessary information, such as the bank account number, username, and password. The recipient is either asked to message or call back or go to a website and enter information. Another scam involves a message that offers a desirable product or service at a low price, but only if the recipient will go to a particular site and download some type of information or confirmation.
Avoiding getting trapped by a text message scam is possible by following some simple advice. First, people should always remember that financial institutions do not ask for personal information in emails or text messages. Second, they should always check the apparent sender identity — many times, the false text messages are directed at a wide range of people who live in the region of a financial institution, and it is not unknown to receive a notice of account closing from a bank at which the receiver has never had an account. Third, individuals should never contact a financial institution using a link or phone number in an SMS message or email; instead, they should find the contact information published on the bankcard or in the phone book. Fourth, news sources and cell phone carriers are often quick to publish reports of scams when they hit, so keeping an eye out can help people recognize scams and ignore such messages.
Other steps that may be helpful include registering a cell phone on the National Do Not Call Registry and on the state list, if one exists. Opting out of text message contact whenever possible is also a good plan. People can also inform their cell carrier when they receive an SMS that appears to be a scam to help prevent future attacks.