What is smishing, and what can you do to protect yourself?

Bozeman

For the last couple of months, I have been receiving texts from a bank that I've never banked at, which was the first sign that something was afoot with these unsolicited texts.  

I kept receiving these texts every week, and they became such a nuisance that I called the bank to let them know what was happening.  

The nice lady on the other end told me that either someone had somehow entered my number accidentally on their end or someone was attempting to retrieve information from me via these texts.  

She was right – the latest tech scam involving smartphones is called Smishing, and it’s a growing threat in the world of online security.  

Smishing is a form of “phishing” using text messages or SMS to trick the receiver into giving out private information via fake links or infecting a phone with unknowingly downloaded malware. 

In general, you don’t want to reply to text messages from people you don’t know. That’s the best way to remain safe. This is especially true when the SMS comes from a phone number that doesn’t look like a phone number but a code number which means that the message originated from an email.  

But sometimes, it’s not that obvious; smishing relies on the fact that more people are inclined to trust a text message and will inadvertently click on links versus an email. 

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Common smishing examples include urgent warnings to act now, package updates, including bank notifications as in my case, or any unsolicited text that prompts the receiver to click and interact, leading to identity theft. 

That’s what was happening to me; these texts said that someone was trying to log into my bank account and asked that I change my password with the link provided. 

The red flag for me was that I, of course, did not have an account at whatever bank my supposed password was being hacked into.  

So, what can you do to protect yourself? 

Well, for starters, be cautious about clicking on any links from numbers that you don’t recognize. And if a link is sent from a known source, such as a service, store, bank, or friend, it’s best to call and inquire if it’s legit.  

Fraud and identity theft happens every day, so being vigilant is the best defense, and if your gut tells you that something seems fishy about it, it probably is. Don’t get taken, and avoid clicking on any unsolicited texts.

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