The question on the phone screen looks easy enough, “Hey, did U get my Txt?”
But hold off on clicking through or texting back.
If you own a cellphone, chances are you have received spam text messages, known as smishing. Smishing replaces the “ph” in email phishing with “sm,” short for Short Message Service (SMS) — the technical term for texting. Bottom line, scam artists are trying to bait a response from you.
Better Business Bureau warns that text spam has been used with trusted company names, often coupled with phony offers like cash prizes, free laptops, information about mortgage assistance, loan offers, and a variety of other services and products.
Smishing messages are annoying because there’s no way to stop it. Replying only tells the bad guy they have an active number, meaning you’ll receive even more texts.
The Federal Trade Commission warns that scammers often sell the contact information of those who respond — even those who respond “STOP” to the messages — and turn the cell numbers into leads for third parties.
The first rule of thumb is to delete unknown messages and control your communication to any business. Only send a message when you know that you can trust the reply. Unwanted text messages that hook people into a scheme can threaten your personal identity and be expensive if someone hacks an email, bank or credit card account.
Here are some anti-smishing tips:
Æ Discuss what smishing scams are with all members of your family who have cellphones, from the youngest to the oldest.
Æ Do not click on links in text messages or emails offering prizes or “free” products or trial offers.
Æ Delete any texts or emails that claim you have won a prize or are eligible for a free product.
Æ Do not respond to smishing text messages — by doing so you are confirming your cell number is active making it ripe for future smishing attempts.
Æ Report the text immediately if it appears to be from your bank, the IRS or any entity asking you for confidential account numbers or other personal information. When you report the activity, you help the business alert others. Be sure you independently verify the contact information of the company in question.
Æ Do not provide personal information to claim “prizes” or to sign up for free trials.
Æ Never give your credit card number, Social Security number or bank account information to pay for fees, taxes or shipping costs for anything that you may have “won” or are getting for “free.”
Æ Only give your cellphone number to people you trust. Avoid providing it online as a condition to take a survey, play a game, etc. Your number could be sold to marketing agencies without your knowledge.
And finally, report it. Call your cellphone provider and instruct them to block the number from which the texts or calls originate. You also may have the option to block all messages from the Internet.
File a complaint with the BBB at bbb.org. Notify the FTC by calling 1-888-382-1222 or online at https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/.
Robb Hicken, 947-2115