Certainly, by now you've heard us warn you against phishing emails. This is when a scammer goes to great lengths to create an email that appears to be from someone you trust, hoping you'll click on a malicious link. These attacks can have horrifying results, such as your gadget being locked with ransomware, or having your login credentials to multiple accounts stolen.
Now, there is a new type of scam that you definitely need to be worried about. It's called "smishing," short for SMS phishing.
How this smishing scam can fool almost anyone
This new texting scam looks so legitimate, anyone could fall victim to it. Scammers are spoofing banks' phone numbers and sending text messages to customers. A spoofed phone number hides the actual number the text is coming from and displays a number from a trusted source, like your bank.
The text claims that your debit card has been used to make a purchase and if you do not recognize the transaction, you need to call their fraud prevention helpline. A phone number is provided for you to call.
Warning, this is not a legitimate bank phone number!
Because the incoming text looks like it's from your bank, people are falling for this. If you do call the number provided in the text, the fraudster will answer the phone.
They will then ask you to confirm your sensitive banking details. This would allow the scammer to steal money from your account.
Claire Pearson of the U.K. is a recent victim of this scam. She received the text, called the number and spoke to the fraudster for nearly half an hour, giving him all the sensitive banking information he asked for.
The scammer ended up draining her bank account of almost $90,000. When Pearson reported the fraud to her bank, her claim was denied. The bank said that it was not at fault in this incident because Pearson willingly divulged personal, security information so it would not accept responsibility for the account losses.
This scam is not limited to the U.K. It's also happening right here in the U.S.
Smishing scams are relatively new. Here are some suggestions to defend yourself against them:
How to avoid a smishing scam:
- Phone number - If you receive a text or email claiming to be from your bank, do NOT call the phone number that is provided. Whenever you need to discuss banking details, always call the number that is printed on the back of your debit or credit card. That way you know the number is legit and you're not going to be scammed.
- Security details - You should NEVER reveal your security details like your full passwords or PIN code over the phone. A bank will never ask for your online account password over the phone. They might ask you to answer a preset security question, which is fine, but never your password.
- Be vigilant - Never assume that a text message or email is genuine. Scammers can spoof phone numbers and email addresses to make them look official. Don't click on links within these messages, always type the website address into your browser or call the phone number located on the back of your card.
- Trust your instincts - If a text or email seems suspicious, delete it immediately. Follow up by calling the company using the trusted phone number on the back of your card.
- Take your time - If you receive a call from someone claiming to be from your bank, don't let them rush you into giving them sensitive information. The incoming number could have been spoofed and a scammer might be on the line. Just tell them that you need a moment and you will call them back. Then call using the phone number that you know is correct.
- Don't feel pressured - If the person calling is pressuring you to give them sensitive data, stay calm and refuse. Just hang up the phone and call the company's trusted number to follow up with the issue.