We live in a society of convenience – convenience stores, online shopping, and sending text messages. Scammers use conveniences to find and trap new victims. Thieves steal information from people through a technique known as “smishing.” Smishing is a scam like email “phishing” scams – receiving fake emails from your bank, phone carrier or other companies. Smishing is sending the same type of message – one that you are likely to answer – via text message. If the person receiving the text answers, it is easy for scammers to steal identity or other information. They can plant viruses or worse from that one simple reply.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports that identity theft scams are on the rise. Their advice to consumers is to ignore and delete the messages without a reply. If you receive a text that seems suspicious, it is also wise to block texts on your iPhone from that number.
Scammers use fear and intimidation to lure their victims. The text messages could revolve around anything from unauthorized use of a bank account to account activation. Other tactics include contests, prizes, or fake job offers. A scam message may look like:
A transaction has been processed on your Bank of America account. If you did not make this transaction, reply “unauthorized” to this message.
New jobs at Amazon.com located in your area! Reply “interested” to receive more information.
The scammer relies on the reply to be able to get your information.
What Can They Do?
Hackers are dangerous. They can access your personal information including bank account and credit card numbers. They can also install viruses, or worse, keylogging software. Keylogging software is a type of malware (virus) that can be installed on a phone or computer. It keeps track of every keystroke or entry made into the device. It can track every message sent, every password, and all account information. The software is installed in the system and can be extremely difficult to remove.
Unsolicited Text Messages Aren’t Always Illegal
It is illegal to send unsolicited text messages, unless the texting party has a relationship with the recipient. Companies such as your bank, phone service provider and other businesses you use can send messages unless you opt out of the service. Political campaigns and charities soliciting funds are exempt from the rule.
Federal law states that “robocalls,” services using computers to call random numbers or mass auto-dialers are illegal.
Text Safety Tips
Text safety tips include:
- Users should not reply to the text – even if it gives you an option to be removed from the list.
- If you feel the text is legitimate, check it out before responding. Call your bank or other company directly. Scammers require an immediate response.
- Never click on links or phone numbers.
- Delete the message immediately.
- Report the message to your phone service carrier.