What is Smishing? How do Scammers Use Texts to Hack your Data?
By Nancy William 7 minutes
What is Smishing? Have you heard of it? Was there ever a time that you received a suspicious text or a phone call from the bank, an insurance company, or any place that holds a lot of personal data stored up? Don’t be too quick to respond to texts like these, because it could really wind you into a lot of trouble!
What is Smishing?
Have you heard of phishing? By definition, it’s a cyber-fraud or scam that tricks users into giving away sensitive information. There are many forms of phishing scams, and one of them is called Smishing. Smishing is literally the amalgamation of SMS and Phishing. It’s when a hacker tricks users by sending malicious or fake texts, pretending to be from authentic sources. These texts are worded or portrayed in such a way to get users to provide all sensitive information.
For instance, let’s say you’ve opened a new bank account with xyz bank. You get a fake text from a hacker asked you to provide your name, account number and other details to ensure safe transactions, better security precautions or other random excuses that are believable.
Some texts even contain links. What happens is, when you click on the link, it can wipe out your entire bank account, use the information you provide for profane activities, or spread viruses throughout your computer or smartphone.
How do Smishing scammers hack a device or steal data through texts?
Smishing scams have advanced increasingly fast over the years, and in fact, it gets really difficult for most to identify an authentic source from a scam. If you’re not too sure of what Smishing scams look like, here are a few examples of them:
Text messages from the bank or official companies
The most famous kind of Smishing attack is text messages from your bank, asking you to provide your bank statements, credit card, and logging information. Here’s the thing, if direct attacks like these happen, always remember that your bank will never ask you for information as sensitive as this over the phone or text message, or at all. Whatever information a bank official requires or needs is always known by them.
Through fake payments derived from your search history
If you’re an active streamer or like downloading apps, games, music, or books very frequently, this kind of information is easily retrieved by websites. Hackers take this as an opportunity to send Smishing texts asking you to pay for so and so download or product, knowing what you’re looking for.
Government official impersonations
A Smishing text from the government or its officials asking you for personal information. Why would any government official ask for details over a text message especially if it’s classified?
Impersonation of family, friends, or known acquaintances
Some Smishing scammers send texts to users pretending to be someone they know; like a family member, friend, or work colleague. They scam you by tricking you into thinking that they need money. Always call up the source directly to reconfirm.
tickets or prizes
Smishing texts also trick users into thinking they’ve either won the lottery, a trip, a cruise, or a product and ask them to redeem the offer by providing credit or personal information.
Malicious links or websites
With the countless websites you visit in a day, most of them are malicious and can infect one’s computer or device. With that said, threats as such can also spread through contact lists in the form of Smishing messages.
If you ever get a message saying that you will be charged $500 or so if you don’t unsubscribe to service by clicking on this link – don’t click the link! First, ask yourself, have you heard of the service you subscribed to? If you happen to be subscribed to a similar service, call up the in charge. Never click on a link straight away.
Is there a way to protect yourself from a Smishing text?
Before heading to the points below, showing you how to detect a Smishing scam, there are a few things you can consider to create a sense of security around you. There is a lot that you alone can do to curb the chances of falling victim to such a scam.
In a nutshell, don’t click on random links, say no to respond to an email or text asking you to urgently send them sensitive data, and always use security software. A VPN is such a software that will help you stay clear of scams like these. We recommend FastestVPN mostly because it’s secure, speedy, allows access to it on multiple devices and is affordable.
How to detect a Smishing text
As mentioned above, with the advancement in different scamming techniques, Smishing scams have taken newer shapes and forms. Here are a few tips for you to use, when trying to detect a Smishing scam:
· The need of all sensitive information
When you create a bank account, or any account for that matter, it is an unsaid rule that no official will ever contact a user asking them for sensitive information like bank or credit card information, your full name and account passwords, or even social security numbers.
We know that texts messages or emails are not a 100% encrypted and come with major threats, so why would anyone want to deal business and pass on sensitive data through a text message? That is the number one sign that you’re targeted for a Smishing scam.
· You can sense the urgency in tone
If you receive a Smishing text that looks authentic but at the same time is worded in a way to rush the user to comply without thinking twice, then it’s something to look into. Most Smishing texts that push users to react without thinking twice are where the red flags are.
For starters, yes, an email of urgency from an authentic source might need immediate action of response, but not so immediate considering that it’s confidential or important.
Always remember that if you receive an important email or text that’s asking you to respond instantly by giving in some information or clicking on a link to proceed, always know that you can still take your time! Read it carefully, call up some known contacts, double-check, etc.
· Look for grammatical errors
Smishing criminals won’t care to look up spelling or grammatical errors. You can take the opportunity to read up the text and look for anything that doesn’t seem too professional. You’d be surprised of what you find.
· When the offers or prizes are beyond your understanding
From personal experience, I’ve often received texts asking me to click on a link to win a new car, or that I’m the lucky winner of a prize bond, etc. If the offers are beyond reachable reality, just don’t acknowledge it. Chances are that if the sources are authentic, you will get a call.
· Check the number of the sender
This is a clear one, and the circumstances might vary. Firstly, the number of the sender could be authentic, but will still give away red flags. However, there are other circumstances when you’re living in one country, for example, with a code of +22, and receive a text from a number that starts with +33.
If you don’t know them, have no ties with them, then don’t respond. If it’s urgent, the sender will try reaching out again until they can finally verify themselves.
· Don’t click on links
This is the number 1 reason why most users fall victim to such attacks. Just because a text is asking you to click on a link, doesn’t mean you should. It could be anything really, like someone texting you to click on a link to donate or to find the latest deals for nearby stores, etc. Regardless of whether if it feels right or not, always look up the source.
Scams such as Smishing and more happen every day. However, there are ways for users to take matters into their own hands! The tips above are only a few ways for you to get started with online security against Smishing, but they’re reliable! It’s better to have a little knowledge than none at all.