What are smishing scams?

Ever received a text from an unknown number that had your hair stand up? Did it promise unrealistic gains or tried to scare you into doing something? It was probably a phishing text message (in other words, a text message scam).

If you don’t know what that is, don’t worry – 70% of people don’t either. However, we’re here to change that! So, let’s get started.

What is smishing?

What is smishing?

Text message phishing or SMS phishing (smishing for short) is a type of phishing attack done in the form of an SMS. Threat actors use it to retrieve personal information by adding malicious links to the message, impersonating a bank or medical institution, or posing as an authoritative figure.

The term was first coined back in 2006. However, ProofPoint, a security software company that processes more than 80% of North America’s mobile messages, observed that between Q2 and Q3 of 2020, there was a 328% jump in smishing scams. That’s why it’s important to protect yourself now more than ever. I’ll go through some points to look out for whenever you receive a text message.

How to recognize text message scams 

Common techniques used to trick people often aim to trigger emotions. This approach is very common in both phishing emails and spear phishing scams

Hackers do this, so we act fast and without thinking. They know this method works best to persuade people into giving them personal information or money. 

Look out for these five things to recognize phishing text scams:

How to report a phishing scam

Once you’ve identified that a text message is a phishing scam, there are five main ways to report it. Though there may be alternatives, I recommend going through any of these channels to ensure your report is used to later prevent others from falling for future text scams.  

The institutions below are mostly for people in the US. If you’re from somewhere else, look up how to report smishing scams in your own country:

  1. Contact the US Government. 
  2. Call the Federal Trade Commission.
  3. File a scam complaint to the FBI – Internet Crime Complaint Center IC3.
  4. Forward any suspicious messages to the number 7726 (SPAM).
  5. Report spam or junk for iOS or Android.

What happens if you click on a phishing text?

What happens if you click on a phishing text?

If you open a phishing text to read it, nothing will happen. Just don’t click on anything! Especially, don’t touch or open any links that lead to shady websites in general inside the SMS.

Also, avoid texts that contain pictures or attachments!

Can you get hacked by responding to a text message?

If you don’t open any links or files, or provide personal information, then no. Simply answering a text will not get you hacked. 

However, it’s best to avoid any and all smishing texts altogether. As the saying goes, curiosity killed the cat. Don’t be that cat.

Spot smishing scams before they spot you

To avoid smishing scams, be sure to read the text messages you receive carefully. Watch out for urgent text messages and an authoritative tone of voice.

Anything else you find suspicious in your text messages, don’t tap on it! This goes for files, pictures, and other attachments.

Also, you can always learn more about phishing scams and how to avoid them. Our phishing quiz is a good place to start! Otherwise, check out our following blog posts about phishing!