The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is currently warning of a dangerous new breed of identity theft scams known as “Smishing.” They are similar to “phishing” scams, which are authentic-looking emails that appear to be sent from the victim’s bank, government agencies, or other well-known organizations. “Smishing” scams are text messages that sent to mobile phones.
And while the risks of Smishing scams can be potentially devastating, actually the defense is simple. According to the FTC, their answer is; “Just don’t text them back.”
How Does the Scammer Set the Trap?
The very scary and convincing Smishing scams work like this: You will receive an unexpected text message that appears to be sent from your bank informing you that your checking or savings account has been hacked into and has been deactivated “for your protection.” The message will instruct you to reply or “text back” to be able to reactivate your account. Other Smishing scam text messages may include a link to a website that you need to visit in order to resolve some other non-existent problem.
What a Smishing Scam Text Message Might Look Like
Here is an example of a text that may be sent from a scammer:
“User #25119: Your Gmail profile has been compromised. Please text back UNLOCKNOW in order to have your account reactivated.”
What is the Worst That Can Happen?
The FTC advises that we do not respond to suspicious or unsolicited text messages. They go on to warn that at least two bad things could and might happen if you do:
- Responding to the text message could allow malware to be installed on to your phone that will silently collect personal information. You can imagine what an identity thief would be able to do with the information from an online banking or credit card management application. If they don’t end up using your information themselves, the spammers will probably sell it to marketers or other identity thieves.
- It is possible that you could end up with unwanted charges on your mobile phone bill. Depending on your monthly service plan, you might be charged for receiving and sending and text messages, even the ones that are scam related.
Absolutely, Unsolicited Text Messages are Illegal
Under federal law, it is illegal to send unsolicited emails or text messages to mobile devices. This includes to cell phones and pagers without the permission of the owner. In addition, it is illegal to send unsolicited text or voice mail or telemarketing messages using a mass auto-dialer, so-called “robocalls.”
However, There Are Exceptions to the Law
In some cases, unsolicited text messages are actually allowed.
- If you have established a relationship with a particular company, they may legally text you things like statements, account activity alerts, warranty information or special offers. Additionally, schools are allowed to text emergency or informational messages to parents and to students.
- Political surveys and fundraising messages from charities can be sent as text messages.
How to Deal With Smishing Scam Messages
The FTC advises you don’t want to be fooled by smishing scam texts messages. Remember these:
- None of the government agencies, banks and financial institutions, or other legitimate businesses will ever request your personal financial information via text messages.
- Be sure to take your time. Smishing scams succeed by creating a false sense of urgency by demanding an immediate response from you.
- Never click on any links or return the call to any phone numbers in an unsolicited text or email message.
- Do not respond in any way to Smishing messages. And that is even to ask the sender to leave you alone. By responding, it verifies that your phone number is active, which tells the scammer to keep trying.
- Delete the message from your mobile phone.
- Report the suspect message to your mobile phone service carrier’s spam and scam text reporting telephone number or to their general customer service number.
Complaints about text message scams can be filed securely online using the FTC’s complaint assistant.
Thank you for taking the time to read my post on Text Message Smishing Scams. I hope it was interesting and helpful to the reader. If you have any Comments or Questions, please feel free to leave them below. Also, if you know of any scams that I have not covered on my website, please leave the information below and I will be glad to investigate. Take care and have a great day.