When you’re feeling lonely, a notification from your phone can sound exciting. Just be careful about clicking on any links. Smishing scams are skyrocketing, so watch out for spam texts hiding in your phone.
Unfamiliar with the term “smishing”? Here’s a quick recap: A smishing scam is a random text message that urges you to click a link. Despite the silly name, smishing is serious. In 2020, these scams stole $86 million from Americans.
Robotexts are getting even worse in 2022. As of June, the FCC received 8,500 complaints about text message scams. That’s a 49% increase from 2019!
Here’s the backstory
Sadly, the problem isn’t going away anytime soon. It’s such a pervasive issue that the U.S. government recently issued an official warning. The FCC made it clear: SMS phishing attacks are escalating this year — so you must be prepared.
If you’re anything like our Content Queen, Allie, you’re well aware of this. She gets tons of robotexts each month. Here’s one that recently popped up in her messages:
Check it out and you’ll notice the signature red flags. Spam texts always have embedded links. They also have text specifically designed to trick you into clicking that link.
For example, this text says someone was added to her recipient list. The scammer wants Allie to wonder, “What’s going on? Who is this person?” The scammer wants her to feel confused and intrigued, so she clicks on the link.
Notice how the text claims to be from Citibank
Scammers often pretend to be from reputable organizations. They want you to think, “Oh, I trust this company. If it’s from Citibank, this link must be trustworthy!”
Sadly, you can’t trust random texts to be trustworthy. Imposter scams are the most common type of fraud the FCC heard about in 2020. They aren’t going away anytime soon, so you must be on guard.
Spam texts often try to rile you up. They want to stress you out, so you feel a sense of urgency. Take this scam, for example:
This text threatens Allie. It tells her that if she doesn’t click the link immediately, her bank account could be in danger. The cybercriminal behind the text wants her to be afraid that she will lose access to her debit card. It says, “Verify now,” and adds a time limit of 24 hours.
As a security expert, Allie recognized this text as a con. She didn’t click the link. But when you see how the message is designed to stir emotions, it’s easy to see why so many people fall for smishing attacks.
Why you should never click the links
Once you fall for it, the link takes you to a malicious webpage that downloads malware onto your device. Or, if it doesn’t immediately inject your device with viruses, it directs you toward malicious websites, links and ads. Bottom line: Clicking these links puts you in danger.
If you value cybersecurity, be wary of random texts — even if they seem to come from legitimate sources. Scammers love to pretend like they’re from legitimate companies. They’ll say they’re from Citibank, Amazon, Google or other trusted institutions — but they’re just criminals lying through their teeth.
But not all scammers will name-drop a company. Others will say an item you never bought is on the way, as with this text:
This scam tried to convince Allie that she would receive something she didn’t purchase. It’s meant to make her feel intrigued, so she clicks the link. But she knew the text was lying — nothing was coming in the mail.
Watch out for these red flags
There are many different types of spam text messages on iPhone and Android. Most try to rile up your emotions, while others want to intrigue you. Others play upon our love of freebies:
No matter what, though, they all have one thing in common. They want you to click the links.
Many wonder, “Why am I suddenly getting spam texts on my iPhone?” I know I certainly turned to Google and asked, “Why am I getting spam texts all of a sudden in 2022?” I thought I should have been safe because I avoided the cardinal mistake that encourages spam texts.
There’s one bright side. The FCC put out a few defense strategies you should keep in mind:
- Don’t click the links: There’s too much at risk. If you need to do business with a legitimate company, type its web address directly into your browser instead of clicking links. Never trust unsolicited texts or emails with links.
- Never give away private information through texts to unknown recipients: Anything you share can and will be used against you. Or it could be sold on the Dark Web.
- Don’t respond to suspicious texts: It’s rare for companies to contact you out of the blue. If you think you’re dealing with a scammer, don’t respond. Otherwise, you’ll let them know they have a working phone number — and they’ll send more spam in the future.
- File an FCC complaint and forward the spam to 7726: Here are the steps to do it properly.
There are also a few surefire signs you should keep in mind:
Signs of scam text messages:
☑️ Unknown numbers
☑️ Misleading information
☑️ Mysterious links
☑️ Sales pitches
☑️ Incomplete information
— The FCC (@FCC) July 28, 2022