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You’ve probably heard of “phishing” – when hackers send bogus messages to your email, hoping that you’ll reply or click a link so that they can get their hands on your information. But there’s a new version of this scheme that’s gaining prevalence, and it targets your smartphone. This scam is called “smishing” as in “phishing via your SMS (text) messages.”
One of the most popular smishes takes the form of a “Congratulations! You’ve won X prize from X company! Reply to this message to receive your reward!” text message to your smartphone. Do not reply to messages like this! Even if you figure out that it’s a scam and you really want to reply with something like “Go blank! your blank! you scamming blank!” – don’t do it. Yes, it would be cathartic, but the act of replying will only affirm to the smishers that your phone number is active, and you’ll receive more of this type of message (plus you’ll probably just be replying to a robot anyway, and robots are unfazed by profanity).
These “congratulations” messages, if replied to, may also ask you for your credit card information to allegedly pay for the shipping and handling costs of your prize. Never give out this information in a situation like this. Many messages like these have claimed to be from Walmart or Target. The Walmart messages have been used by smishers so frequently that at one point the company issued a statement saying that they absolutely never send consumers messages asking for sensitive information via text.
Another smish is one that will claim to be from your bank or another seemingly credible or important institution. The message will claim to be urgent and will request a reply. If you receive a text like this, do not reply via text message. Instead, look up the phone number for the bank or company and call them directly.
Other tips related to smishing prevention:
- If a text message comes from the number 5000, it’s a smish. It’s safest to delete it without even opening it.
- You may want to set up a text alias with your provider. This will allow you to receive and send texts, but the texts that you send will show up under your “alias” rather than your real number. It’s like having a secret phone number. Then you can block incoming texts to your “real” number and give family and friends your alias. Ask your service provider about how a text alias works.
- Never give any sensitive information (your social security number, bank account information, etc) to anyone that you don’t absolutely trust.
Don’t let yourself get smished! If you’re receiving any messages that might be from smishers, report them to your service provider. You may also want to report suspicious messages to the Federal Trade Commission.