When I was a kid, we would occasionally get a phone call from someone that dialed the wrong number. After the caller learned that whomever they were looking for was not associated with our home, they usually apologized and hung up. Text scammers start the same way with a tactic called “smishing,” which is like email phishing but via text message (Reader’s Digest, Ashley Lewis, If You Get These Texts, Delete Them Immediately, August 8th, 2022, https://www.rd.com/list/texts-delete-immediately/). It starts with a text from someone you don’t know that goes something like this: “Hi, Dani. I’m sorry, my vacation was postponed. Might not be able to travel with you.” This scam often “starts out with a message that looks like it was meant for someone else and is fairly urgent” so you feel obligated to let them know it has not reached the right person (PC MAG, Chandra Steele, That Text You Got for Someone Else? It Was Really Meant to Hook You, August 25th, 2022, https://www.pcmag.com/how-to/how-to-avoid-misdirected-text-scams). The text could be like the example above or be some other scheduling conflict like a medical appointment, or a question “sorry to hear about your dog,” or needing an answer to an urgent work issue or following up on a date. The next thing the scammer does is to try to engage you in a friendly text exchange. Some scammers play a short game, like over a 2-to-48-hour period, and others play a long game over weeks or months. Regardless of the scammer's time frame style, one common thread that all scammers do is to play on your emotions by sharing a tragic story with you that ultimately ends up with a pitch for money or to trick you into revealing a piece of private information, like your date of birth. From people I talk to, smishing is more of a nuisance than email phishing this year, it seems like everyone is getting these types of text message scams. In this blog, I’ll highlight some common text message scams and provide some advice to help you steer clear of them.
• The “acquaintance” you never met.
In this one, the scammer acts like someone who appears to know you and then tries to entice you in with a friendly text exchange. The USA Today reports that the message often goes like this: “Beautiful weekend coming up. Wanna go out?” or “Sophie gave me your number. Check out my profile here: [a website link].” Smishing scammers try to use common names like Ted or Julie that “aren’t too obvious or hard to pronounce because they want to maintain their not-so-suspicious façade (Reader’s Digest, Ashley Lewis, If You Get These Texts, Delete Them Immediately, August 8th, 2022, https://www.rd.com/list/texts-delete-immediately/). See the featured image above for an example.
• Your package is pending.
Getting a text message saying that you have a package waiting for you might be tempting to fall for. But carefully consider before you click on anything. This one has been making its way around this year, usually with the Amazon logo associated with it. People have reported receiving messages saying: [Name], we came across a parcel/package from [a recent month] pending for you. Kindly claim ownership and confirm for delivery here” with a link for you to click into. Clicking on the link and entering your “personal information potentially allows cybercriminals to steal your identity, empty your bank account, or install malware on your phone (Reader’s Digest, Ashley Lewis, If You Get These Texts, Delete Them Immediately, August 8th, 2022, https://www.rd.com/list/texts-delete-immediately/).”
• Your bank is closing your account, your card was declined, and your bank account is compromised so log in now to change your password. Smishing scammers also disguise themselves as your bank or utility company to trick you into giving up your password, PIN, or other personal credentials. The message may read something like: “Dear customer, Bank of America is closing your bank account. Please confirm your PIN at [URL] to keep your account activated.” Messages of this nature also contain urgent language such as “If you don’t reply within 24 hours, your account will be closed.” If you get a text like this, the best thing to do is to contact your bank or utility company, and DO NOT CLICK ON THE LINK (Reader’s Digest, Ashley Lewis, If You Get These Texts, Delete Them Immediately, August 8th, 2022, https://www.rd.com/list/texts-delete-immediately/).
• You’ve won a major award.
This type of text scam is so tempting. First, because everyone likes prizes. Secondly, most people have a credit card with a “rewards” program or some type of card with a “loyalty” program. At least for me, when I have accumulated enough points, they remind me via text I’m eligible to get a FREE prize or something else. The pitch is to get you to click and often goes something like: “You’ve won a prize! Go to [URL] to claim your $500 Amazon gift card.” If you don’t remember entering a contest for anything, do not click on the link, or you may inadvertently be going to a link that downloads malicious code like malware onto your phone, which can damage or disable your phone (Reader’s Digest, Ashley Lewis, If You Get These Texts, Delete Them Immediately, August 8th, 2022, https://www.rd.com/list/texts-delete-immediately/).
If you receive a smishing text, the first thing to do is DO NOT RESPOND, even if it’s to troll the sender because it will still put you at risk for future scams. Next, block the number on your phone. And DO NOT CLICK on any link in the message. By clicking you could invite a malicious code, provide a piece of data the scammer wants, or worst, get locked out of your device while the hacker mines your data or mobile banking account. Lastly, if you try to help a person with a wrong number, and then realize you are the target for smishing, cease responding and block the caller (PC MAG, Chandra Steele, That Text You Got for Someone Else? It Was Really Meant to Hook You, August 25th, 2022, https://www.pcmag.com/how-to/how-to-avoid-misdirected-text-scams). In addition to helping our customers steer clear of smishing and email phishing scams, RB’s Computer Service provides malware and ransomware protection and Managed IT Services. We also sell the best laptop computers, commercial-grade routers, best desktop computers, business computers, computer parts, and computer monitors. For iPhone, smartphone repair, and tablet repairs, contact us today via phone or email: 763-441-3884, firstname.lastname@example.org.