what is smishing

What is Smishing and How to Stay Secure?

Scamming via text is called smishing. Consider this: you receive a fraudulent text message designed to trick you into handing over personal information, including details of your bank account. Smishing and phishing have a lot in common.

Nearly all of us are aware of email-based phishing. The first phishing attack was recorded on January 2, 1996. While it’s unclear when the first smishing attack took place, our bets are that it began in the early 21st century as mobile phones started getting global acceptance.

How Does Smishing Work?

Smishing works similarly to how phishing attacks work. You’ll receive a spam SMS from an unknown sender. For example, somebody might claim to be from your bank and request you provide account information, social security numbers, or credit card details by replying to the text or the link provided in the spam message.

In essence, smishing is just the SMS version of phishing emails where you’ll receive a scammy text message on your smartphone instead of a scammy email. As more and more companies send you SMS, it gets difficult to filter out the ones that are authentic from the ones that have malicious intentions.

What if I Click on the Smishing Link?

If you received an SMS that you thought to be genuine and coming from a reliable sender and happen to click the link provided in the message, you might infect your device with malware, ransomware, or worse, spyware.

In short, you shouldn’t tap on a link that’s coming from an unknown and untrusted sender. By clicking, you might end up on a fake bank/shopping site (a phishing site) with a fraudulent message saying ‘hey click to earn your free reward’ or ‘enter your email address and password to login.’

While these messages might seem hard to click, you should just pause and think about it. Why would someone give you a free reward? Also, when entering your email address and password, make sure to verify the site’s URL. Call the helpline if you have any doubts.

What Do Smishing Texts Exist?

It’s pretty simple: smishing, just like phishing, is carried out by cybercriminals to steal your personal data. Your stolen data can then be used to steal money, which is generally yours, but in some cases, your company’s as well.

Generally, cybercriminals will trick you into downloading malware via a smishing link, which will download and install itself on your device. This malware might appear as an authentic app that won’t raise any eyebrows. Each time you access financial details and type any confidential information, however, that data will be automatically sent to the cybercriminals.

During the current pandemic, smishing activities are on the rise as more and more people are using their personal smartphones for work while they work from home. This has made smishing not only a consumer threat but a business threat as well.

How to Protect Yourself against Smishing

Fortunately, there are ways you can protect your privacy from smishing attacks. The best method is to ignore the message and simply do nothing at all. Smishing attacks will only hurt you if you click the bait.

Here are a few things you should keep in mind to protect yourself against such attacks:

  • If you receive a message saying ‘urgent security alert’ or ‘redeem your coupon’ or ‘claim your reward,’ realize instantly that it’s probably a hacking attempt.
  • Banks never ask you for your account details via text and especially details concerning password or credit/debit card security code. If you receive a message claiming to be from your bank, and it asks you to click a link, it’s a scam. Immediately notify your bank when in doubt.
  • Don’t tap on a link or a phone number that’s displayed in a message, especially if it’s coming from an unknown sender.
  • When in doubt, always verify the phone number by doing a simple Google search. Numbers such as 4000 or 11 digits are mostly fake and used by scam artists to trick you.
  • Never store your financial details, such as credit card and banking information, on your smartphone. If you happen to click on the link by mistake and spyware installs on your phone, the hacker can learn about your private information.
  • Ignore the bait and report the attack.

Most of the text messages that you receive will be genuine. However, it only takes one malicious message to compromise your privacy and security. By being cautious, you can avoid falling victim to a smishing attack. So long as you ignore the text message, you should be safe.

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Ather Owais Ather Owais is a tech and cybersecurity enthusiast. He is a strong advocate for online privacy and security, following technological trends and their impact on today's digital era.

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