What is a Smishing Attack?
The term “Smishing” refers to a cyber attack as a form of hacking in which the hacker will send authentic-looking messages through texts on your phone that appear to be from a trusted source; such as your bank, or another reputable organization. These are similar to Phishing scams, except they appear through your phone as text messages; as opposed to emails through your email provider. The risks associated with these types of messages can be devastating, and best practice is to never respond to them; you can even set up the contact as spam, and you will not have to worry about receiving any messages from the sender in the future.
How to Spot Smishing Hacking Attack Attempts
Now that we’ve gone over what a Smishing attack is and how to avoid getting pulled in by one, it’s time to cover just how you spot these types of cyberattacks. When you receive a message from your email provider or another institute that is a Smishing attempt, it will state something along the lines of “your account has been compromised. Reply with [reactivate] to reactivate your account and continue using this service”. Other forms of this same scam will attempt to have you tap on a link that will lead you to a website on your phone’s web browser. Both forms of these scam attempts are looking to steal your information and should be avoided. If you doubt the legitimacy of these messages, it is still advised to never respond to them, as this can open yourself up to getting scammed. The best practice in these instances is to reach out to the company or entity that the message is supposedly from; to make sure that there is nothing wrong with your account, and that it is in fine working order.
Generally, your bank or other institutions that are needing to get in touch with you about an issue regarding your account can leave a text message, but the validity of the message will be far easier to verify. For instance, most legitimate text messages about your account will provide details; such as the last four digits of your account number, and will have a phone number towards the end of the message that you can call to speak with a representative. Knowing how to spot a scam message will make it easier in judging which messages can be replied to, and which should be avoided.
What Can Happen if I Responded to an Attempted Scam?
Responding to one of these scams can allow the scammer or hacker access to important and vital personal information on your phones, such as the information stored on your mobile banking or credit card apps. In this day and age, almost everyone that has an account with an institution such as this has these apps on their phone, as it makes life easier for us. With the information that is stored on these apps, there is no limit to what the scammers could do; even if they choose to do nothing themselves, they can sell the information to somebody who would use it. The repercussions could be disastrous for you, and the risk is simply not worth it. Therefore, it is simply best to not respond to these messages unless you have validified the source.
These scams can go farther than financial institutes and apps as well, as there is no limit to what they can gain access to; provided they are able to obtain the right information. Due to the multitude of apps that are available to download directly onto your phone, (which all store pertinent and valuable personal information), these types of scams, if responded to, can potentially gain access to your email, financial information, and subscription services. Generally, any type of application that requires you to submit personal information to use can potentially pose a risk to yourself, and a benefit to hackers.
How Can I Avoid Getting Scammed by Smishing Attempts?
The easiest and safest way to avoid getting scammed by these hacking attempts is to simply not respond to the message. In some cases, this can seem easier said than done. However, the best practice moving forward is to reach out to the company that the message claims to be from. The representative will be able to pull up your account in a matter of seconds and let you know right there on the phone if there is indeed an issue with your account or not. If your account seems to be in fine working order, you can simply mark the sender of the message as spam, to avoid receiving messages from them in the future. As stated above, most text messages that are legitimate will leave a phone number that is generally a 1-800 number in order for you to call and resolve the issue(s); and usually you can do a web search on this number and it will pull up the institution that is trying to get in contact with you.
Unfortunately, in today’s modern age, cyber threats are a very real security issue, and it is important to recognize an attempted threat to your personal information, as well as those around you. The most important thing is learning how to recognize the legitimacy (or lack thereof) any text messages you receive, especially those not from a contact in your phone’s built-in address book. However, in some cases it can be difficult to differentiate when it is a scam and legitimate; in cases such as these, it is always a good idea to reach out to the institution that the text message is claiming to be from.
We hope this article was helpful, and that you can take the above information to avoid being scammed by a Smishing scheme in the future.