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Your lifestyle, your quirk
No, smishing isn’t the latest pastime in the Jersey Shore house. If you’ve not familiar with the term smishing, you are not alone. Last week, I received a text message congratulating me on winning a $1,000.00 Target gift card. I considered for a moment that this might be a scam, but I was unaware of that text message scams even existed. Then I realized that I had recently downloaded a Target app for my iPhone, so I thought maybe really was my prize to claim. I clicked on the link in the text message, and it led me to a picture of the Target mascot prompting me to enter my phone number is a box below. I immediately closed the website and deleted the text message.
Worried that I might have been the victim of fishing scam, I did some online research and discovered that smishing is a term for fishing scams sent via SMS, a.k.a. text messages. Most people are savvy about email scams and understand that clicking on links from unknown or suspicious sources can have dangerous consequences. However, cell phones are regarded by many to be more secure. The truth is we provide our cell phones to a variety of sources we consider to be safe, such as Facebook, radio stations, retail stores, etc. Internet criminals can access these databases to take advantage of people by sending fraudulent messages to gain further information. Once they obtain this information, they can do a lot of damage.
What can you do to protect yourself from smishing?
1. Never open a link from an unknown or suspicious source. A good rule of thumb here is if you think it’s too good to be true (like a $1,000.00 gift card to your favorite store), then it’s probably a scam. Use the same caution you would when receiving e-mail messages. Protect your phone the same way you protect your computer.
2. Don’t provide any information. The “smisher” might pose as your bank and ask you to confirm your account number or personal information. Think about it. Would your bank really send a text message if they had a problem or question about your account? If you still aren’t sure, call your bank or the presumed source and describe the content the text message to confirm its authenticity.
3. Don’t reply. Any response, even it’s a “remove me from this list” or “leave me alone” reply to the “smisher,” could put you at risk of receiving more smishing scams because you have confirmed that your phone number is active and that you will actually respond to these types of messages. Even something seemingly innocent like a “What’s up” text from an unknown number could lead to trouble if you reply to inquire further.
4. Consider a security app for your cell phone. After I realized that I might have jeopardized the security of my phone by clicking the link in the smishing text message, I downloaded an app from Lookout Security, which was able to scan my phone for malware. Thankfully, my momentary lapse in judgment didn’t put me at risk. This app continually performs scan checks of my phone and lets me know if something isn’t right. I still felt embarrassed about my mistake, but I was relieved to know it could have been a lot worse.
5. Consult your service provider’s website to find out if spam messages can be blocked. There may be a way to block text messages from certain numbers. In this case, it would be helpful to write down the number that sent the smishing text before deleting it. Unfortunately, I failed to do this. After checking my service provider’s website, I realized that I could have protected myself from receiving further smishing messages if I had only known what number it came from.