Using your phone to search the web, apply for services, and buy things is highly convenient, but it is not without its risks. One of the biggest risks when using mobile devices comes in the form of smishing attacks.

According to a recent report, over 40% of the public has seen an increase in spam messages and calls since the beginning of 2020. Text messages are the newest form of phishing, so you should proceed carefully when using your mobile. 

In this guide, we are going to explain what smishing is and how you can protect yourself from the risks when using your phone. 

What is Smishing?

Smishing works the same as other phishing attacks, a common form of security hacking that takes place across the internet but takes place through text messages. 

These spam messages 'fish' for a response and leave users vulnerable to having their information stolen. SMS phishing, also known now as smishing, is a way of obtaining personal or financial information through spam texts sent directly to your mobile devices. 

A spam SMS text message will be sent to mobile devices under the guise of a legitimate company. The message may come from what appears to be the number of companies you use on your own device, like your credit card company, but they are not legit. 

There are three ways that smishing messages work:

a.) The first version will give you a link to a shady website which intends to copy and steal your information. 

b.) The second version will either push you to download a malware app or start running it automatically through your browser.

c.) The third version you may be getting asked for personal information in a way that requires a direct response. 

These are some of the most common ways scammers will try to get hold of your bank details or other sensitive personal information. 

While we may be familiar with phishing emails and their signs, mobile users continue to be at threat from this growing issue. As the message comes directly to your phone number, it can seem trustworthy and is, therefore, more dangerous than other forms of phishing attacks. 

The message will usually come from unknown senders, but there are clever ways for scammers to disguise this to make your phone's software register their number as something else, as part of your bank account information, so you are more likely to respond. 

If you have received such messages, you should not respond and instead seek immediate attention to prevent further attacks. 

How To Guard Yourself Against A Smishing Attack

There are a few ways that you can identify whether you are dealing with a smishing attempt and protect your sensitive data during the process. 

Smishing appears on your mobile phone as SMS messages, but they can also come through your social media accounts. They will look like genuine messages for the most part, which makes it harder to recognise phishing texts from genuine ones.

While it is impossible to protect yourself from every single smishing attack, there are some ways that you can keep track of the warning signs and prevent interaction with fraudulent websites overall. 

To protect yourself from these kinds of data breaches and preserve your sensitive information, there are some things you can do:

1) Visit the organisation's website directly

A malicious text message will typically be made to appear as though it has come from your bank to get personal or financial details from you. This is how smishing messages are seen by users, as most of the time, they can bypass any spam filters that may be in place using clever disguise tactics. 

If you have received a message out of the blue from these companies and it does not seem right, make sure to check with their website first. 

Get in touch with the true customer service team, using the official numbers or contact details as found on the website, to check whether the message is legit or simply a string of spam texts.

Contacting your bank directly is a way to check that the supposed sender is real, and there will be processes in place that can block this number to prevent them from messaging you again.

2) Never share personal details via text message 

An easy way to prevent any fraudulent activity is to never send personal information via text messages. 

Smishing attempts are looking to get your personal details, such as login or bank information, so they can steal money from you. If you have messages coming in that request personal information or login information to be shared in text form, do not respond.

Legitimate companies will never ask for your personal information this way, so you should report any suspicious activity.

3) Upgrade your personal security

All confidential information must remain this way, and one of the best ways to do this is by upgrading your personal security.

All your login details must be complicated, and use passwords that feature unusual characters to make them harder to guess. 

You should never use the same password across multiple accounts or share them to keep them secure. 

4) Rely on your phone's security measures

Both IOS and Android devices have security features built-in that allow you to block individual users and report any fake site that you come across.

If you are using the messaging app on an Android phone, you can automatically block phone numbers or a certain website link in an active conversation. Tap messages to reveal the contact details and select the block option. 

A similar process can be done on an iPhone. 

Anti malware apps can also be downloaded onto any computer device, which will process links arriving and offer ongoing security advice to keep you safe. 

5) Trust your gut

Sometimes, malicious messages can bypass any security software you are using as scammers become more careful in their work. This is why remaining diligent and trusting yourself is a highly effective way of preventing smishing.

This includes avoiding any link that is being sent to you via text message. 

Typically, a smishing message will have a link embedded that you are asked to click to respond, but this is a way to collect information from you without consent. 

This kind of link will be used to steal information where it may be used immediately or leaked online. You can prevent this by never clicking on a link sent via text. 

Checking whether the message or number is correctly formatted is another great indicator of smishing. 

While some automated services can also send messages with these issues, bad formatting or grammar is also a common sign of smishing, so report messages like this whenever possible.

If something does not sound or look right, then trust this instinct and report it. 

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