Spot the Scam: Smishing Scams


HOST, JORDAN MURPHY: We send and receive a lot of text messages, but so do scammers. They’re out to trick unsuspecting people into clicking a link, replying to a text, or calling a phone number, to reveal their credit card numbers and even their bank account information. It’s a scam called smishing and it’s a growing problem in fraud and identity theft, but today, we’re here to help you spot the scam.

It’s called smishing. It’s a funny word, but a serious problem. Smishing scammers cast a wide net by sending fraudulent text to hundreds or even thousands of people. Even if a small percentage of people respond to their scam, they can collect a significant amount of information that will make them a lot of money. To learn more about how smishing works, I asked expert Dave Morrow to walk me through it.

DAVID MORROW: Smishing is basically just phishing sent by text message.

JORDAN MURPHY: OK.

DAVID MORROW: A smishing scammer is trying to get any kind of information they can from you. That could be your social security number, your bank account numbers, and your health information. So anyone with a smartphone can be a victim of a smishing scam.

JORDAN MURPHY: Got it.

DAVID MORROW: So here’s an example of a text message you might get.

JORDAN MURPHY: Dear Acme Bank customer, your account has been locked due to suspicious activity. We urgently need to make your contact or your account will be closed and then there’s a link.

DAVID MORROW: I don’t do business with Acme Bank. So why would I be getting a text from them if I don’t do business with them?

JORDAN MURPHY: Right.

DAVID MORROW: So what they do is they give you a website address you have to go to. It will probably ask you for your user ID your password. But if you answer those things, you think you’re resetting your password. What you’ve done is give them your account information for the bank.

JORDAN MURPHY: So how can you protect yourself from being scammed? Here are a few key points to remember. Never reply to text messages from senders you don’t know. And don’t click on links that are texted to you unless you know who they’re coming from. And if you know the sender, but the message seems odd, just double-check with the contact before clicking. With most cell phone carriers, you can forward suspicious text messages to 7726 or S-P-A-M. When you forward the message, you help identify and block smishing messages.

Tip number three. Never reply to text messages asking for personal information. Legitimate companies don’t text requests for account numbers, login details, and other sensitive data. Now you know how to spot the scam, so you can stop the scam. Texting makes our lives easier, but it also opens us up to many clever scammers out there. You can stay up-to-date on the latest scams and get free tools to help protect yourself and your family at the AARP Fraud Watch Network.