Chances are you’ve got security software on your PC to protect your emails against “phishing”— fraudulent messages that attempt to get you to reveal sensitive information such as account numbers and passwords.
But now there’s a new venue for these types of scams: your smartphone.
What is smishing?
“Smishing” is phishing that’s conducted over short message service (SMS) — or your texts.
The Pew Internet and American Life Project found that on average, mobile phone users send and receive approximately 40 text messages a day. That means at some point, you’re likely to encounter smishing. And if your smartphone isn’t secure, your personal information could be vulnerable.
Messages you might receive
Common smishing messages often appear to require immediate attention. They may take a format such as:
• A message “from your bank,” telling you your account has been shut down and asking you to call a number to reactivate the account.
• A notification that you’ve been signed up for a service and will be charged unless you take some form of action, such as visiting a bogus website.
• A confirmation of a purchase that directs you to call a number if the confirmation is inaccurate.
If you take the actions as prompted by these messages, you may be sending your personal information right to the scammer. Some programs will spread malware or a virus on your phone or PC. And others may give the scammers the means to eavesdrop on your phone calls.
How to protect yourself
If you get a text that’s unsolicited or from an unidentifiable source, protect yourself with these tips:
• If the message appears to be from a legitimate source, contact that source’s main phone number — not the number provided in the text — and verify. Legitimate businesses, such as banks, do not send out texts that elicit a response.
• Delete messages from unknown sources without reading.
• Do not click on links or download apps from an unverified source.
• Never provide sensitive information to an unverified texter.
• Avoid messages that appear to come from the number 5000. This may be an identity that hides a scammer’s real number. The message may have no number at all.
• Add security software to your mobile phone.
• Look into setting up a “text alias.” This cell phone feature hides your actual phone number from the smishing sender.
• Contact your phone provider and alert it to the messages you’ve been receiving.
Information provided by Eric Schepers, State Farm Insurance, 516 Nile Kinnick Drive S., Suite A, 993-3482.