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Protection & Security

Don't Take the Bait: How to Recognize and Avoid Text Message Phishing Scams

Happy mature couple reading text messages on their mobile phones during breakfast time on a terrace

Whether you call them smishing, phishing or just plain scams, text-based smartphone attacks are just bad news. These tempting and often scary text messages take many forms, but they all have one thing in common.

No matter how they are crafted or who the perpetrators are, text message phishing attacks aim to steal your personal information. If you click the link and take the bait, your credit card numbers, banking information and passwords could all be exposed. Even worse, the contents of your home Wi-Fi network and other connected devices could also be at risk, ramping up the potential for damage that much higher.

If you rely on your smartphone for banking, online shopping, social media and other essentials of modern life, you need to understand how these text message phishing scams work and how to avoid taking the bait. One of the most important things to know is how these scams work, including these common tactics.

  • The lure of free stuff – Everyone loves free gifts, and the perpetrators of text message phishing scams know that. Treat all such offers with a skeptical eye, and a big grain of salt.
  • Promises of gift cards – The creators of these text message scams often dangle gift cards from popular merchants like Amazon and Apple, and once again it pays to be skeptical. Retailers do not give away gift cards at random, and it is best to ignore these offers.
  • Promises to pay off student loans or other debts – The desire to pay off debt is stronger than ever, so watch out for offers to pay off those accumulated debts.

Then there are the scare tactics, the hard-sell side of text message phishing scams. Here are some of the scary messages that might soon land in your smartphone messaging app.

  • Your account has been compromised. It is scary to hear that your account security has been breached, so it is no surprise this tactic works so well. If you truly want to protect yourself, avoid panic and contact the merchant directly.
  • There is a problem with your payment. Storing credit and debit cards online is common practice in the age of online shopping, and the scammers know that very well. They send text messages claiming that there is a problem with the payments you have on file, but it is just a ruse to gather your personal information.
  • Your package is on the way. In the age of online shopping, package delivery notifications are commonplace, but not all of them are real. Text messaging phishing scams often use fake package delivery notifications to gather personal information and compromise the security of your devices.

Recognizing the warning signs of a text message phishing scam is important, but prevention is always the best strategy. If you never see those phony text messages, your odds of clicking on an infected link are basically zero. Here are some strategies you can use to avoid these dangerous phishing schemes.

  • Check your phone settings. You may be able to adjust the settings on your messaging app to filter out suspected scam or flash a warning when opening suspect messages.
  • Ask your provider about additional security measures. Many phone carriers offer additional protection, including protection against phishing scams and phony text messages.
  • Explore call blocking apps. Call blocking apps can be great for smartphone owners, but some of them come with an extra feature. Check the settings of your favorite app for messaging protection, so you can stop those bogus texts in their tracks.

Guarding against text message phishing scams and other smartphone dangers requires a proactive protection strategy, one that includes constant vigilance, deep knowledge and an ounce of prevention. The tactics listed above can help you recognize and avoid text message phishing scams, so you can protect yourself, your devices and your data.