Although mobile phones don’t get viruses the same way computers do, there are still substantial security risks to be aware of when you use your mobile phone. Smishing is one of the most common ways hackers try to get your information through your mobile phone.

This article will explain what smishing looks like and how to avoid being smished. Keep reading to find the answers to your most frequent questions and concerns about smishing.

Smishing: Defined

Smishing is a cybersecurity attack where a scammer uses text messages to trick you into giving out your information. These smishing text messages include malicious links that ask you to enter your Social Security Number, credit card information, passwords, and other sensitive information.

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While many people know about common email and phone scams, some are not familiar with text message scams. As a result, they fall for smishing scams and unconsciously give their information away.

If you are smished, scammers might sign up for credit cards in your name, hack your bank account, or steal your identity. That’s why it’s important to know what smishing looks like and how to avoid it.

Phishing vs. Smishing

The word “smishing” is a combination of the words “SMS” and “phishing.” Smishing is a form of phishing that falls under the general phishing umbrella with vishing and whaling. The modus operandi and defining characteristics of smishing are done through SMS messages instead of email.

Like how phishing scammers send emails with strange attachments or links, smishing scammers will send fake text messages. Phishing and smishing are the same except for their delivery method—email vs. text messages.

Dig Deeper: What Is Smishing and Vishing, and How Do You Protect Yourself?

Types and Examples of Smishing Attacks

Based on what we’ve gathered from what smishing is, all smishing attacks are done through text messages. Depending on the type of attack, the scammers might be looking to steal different information from you. The most common types and examples of smishing always involve passwords, malware, and financial attacks.

In all cases, smishing works because you enter your information into a website or a text message. As such, never give out your information unless you completely trust the website or the person you’re texting. For reference, here are some of the most common types and examples of smishing:

Password Attacks

In smishing password attacks, scammers set up a fake website that looks very similar to a real one. The scammer asks you to sign in to your account using a certain link. Since the website looks real, you might have to type in your password.

The smisher might say that your account has been compromised, there’s an important message that needs to be read, or that your credit card will be charged unless you sign in. This modus is especially common for bank websites. Bank smishing, or when a scammer tricks you into giving out your bank username and password, is one of the most common types of smishing.

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Malware Attacks

Scammers might also try to trick you into downloading malware apps. This type of smishing attack is more common on Android phones because they have fewer app downloading restrictions than iOS devices.

If you download a fake app, information like your location, contacts, and passwords could be stolen. Therefore, only download apps directly from the manufacturer’s store to ensure you never accidentally download malware.

Dig Deeper: How to Quickly Remove Malware in 2023

Financial Scam Attacks

If the scammers don’t send you a fake website or app, they might send you texts that try to convince you to send them money instead. They might pretend to be someone you know or financial personnel who offer a get-rich-quick scam in exchange for an upfront payment.

Dig Deeper: 7 Ways to Tell If It’s a Fake

This type of smishing attack is especially effective against less tech-savvy people or those who have never been educated about online scams. Older people are more likely to be the victims of a financial smishing attack.

How to Tell If You’re Being Smished

Knowing what smishing is isn’t enough to protect you. A few tell-tale signs of smishing are crucial to be aware of.

First, many smishing scammers will send fake messages from email-to-text services. If you receive a message from a number that doesn’t look like a regular phone number, like “5000,” that’s a strong sign of smishing.

Be especially cautious of strange text messages that contain links you don’t recognize. Never open links attached to text messages unless you trust the person who sent them. Even if you know the person who sent you the link, confirming that they meant to send it before you click it might be a good idea.

You can often tell that a text message is fake or a scam because it will contain grammar errors, misspelled words, and special characters. Even if the message looks legitimate, don’t let your guard down. If you don’t recognize the number, it’s best not to open it.

Can You Get Hacked by Responding to a Text?

Whether or not you can get hacked by responding to a text depends on what information you disclose. If you don’t say anything that can be used to hack you, like a password, username, or personally identifiable information, just responding to a text doesn’t mean you’ll get hacked.

Still, it’s better to avoid responding to scammers’ texts altogether. By responding to a fake text, you’re telling the scammers that you’re willing to talk to them and that they might be able to trick you if they try hard enough. If you receive a text you think is a smishing attack, ignore it.

How To Avoid Being Smished

The easiest way to avoid being smished is to ignore all texts you’re unfamiliar with. As long as you don’t interact with scammers, there’s no way for them to trick you.

Even if a text message seems real, a legitimate business will never ask you to enter your password, PIN, or other personally identifiable information through text messages. In particular, the IRS and Social Security Administration will never communicate via text.

Report any smishing attacks to your local authorities handling cybersecurity crimes, and increase your device’s security level to end these crimes. Help us at McAfee into beating this system. That way, you can protect yourself and others and help ensure that the scammers are caught. As long as you stay alert and don’t enter your information on any malicious websites, you can stay safe from smishing.