Scammers never sleep. They used to make telephone calls and/or send faux computer messages. As people caught on and stopped responding, scammers found a new approach: texting.
So-called “smishing” (the term stands for “SMS phishing”) has been widely adopted for two reasons:
- The cost of texting is negligible; and
- Scammers are enjoying enough success to continue.
Smishing for Dollars
According to the FBI’s 2022 Internet Crime report, total losses to people over age 60 now exceed $3 billion. (https://www.gasa.org/post/fbi-internet-crime-report-2022 ). As for smishing, the most recent report shows overall losses to consumers exceeds $33 million.
How Smishing Starts
Smishing works the way virtually all the scams work. You receive an “urgent” text from your bank warning that your account has been compromised or that a very large withdrawal has been made from your account (yikes!) or another concerning matter and IMMEDIATE ACTION IS REQUIRED.
You may believe the text is real because you’ve consented to receive texts from your bank. Such texts can be useful to advise that your balance has fallen below a threshold, for instance.
How Smishing Works
The required “immediate action” varies. Some scammers tell you to click on a conveniently included link. Others have a number that you’re instructed to call immediately.
- Click on a fraudulent link and you risk being taken to a form used to steal information and/or sneak malware into your device (e.g., viruses, ransomware, spyware, or adware).
- Call the provided number and a scammer may be able to get critical information that provides access your account. This often works if you have previously consented to receive texts from your financial institution, believe the text is authentic and think that you’re actually speaking to a representative at your bank. But you aren’t.
For the record, a surprising number of people who have not consented to receive texts do call and – even more surprising – do provide important information to an unknown person over the phone. Such callers believe that they are, in fact, in touch with their financial institution, a gullibility that scammers count on.
Anti-Smish Toolkit: what to know
One reason smishing is surprisingly successful is that texts come in at all times, often when we’re on the run. Immediately worried, on-the-run people respond often enough to keep scammers “employed” (so to speak).
Keep in mind two guidelines:
- No bank will ever ask for personal or confidential banking information via text message. Immediately delete and report such requests to your bank and to the FTC (ReportFraud.ftc.gov )
- Never click on any link or respond by phone to any text alleged to come from your bank. Instead call your bank directly using the number listed on the back of your credit card or listed on the bank’s website.
- Finally, if you did interact with the text message (you clicked on a link or replied by phone: it happens) call your bank’s number for fraud or security issues ASAP.
For additional information on banking scams, visit (https://www.banksneveraskthat.com/
have you ever been ‘smished?” What happened? Let us know in the comments!
Nona Aguilar is an award-winning writer of numerous magazine articles and two books. She has also edited four specialty business newsletter publications. Her work has appeared in Ladies Home Journal, Redbook, Family Circle and Cosmopolitan, and in The Business Owner.