With every new form of communication, a new form of scam emerges. With the advent of mobile telecommunications, not only vishing has emerged, but also smishing. What exactly smishing is and how you can protect yourself against it, we discuss in this article.

Smishing meaning

Smishing, also known as phishing via text message, is a form of cybercrime in which scammers use misleading text messages to steal personal information or money.

In smishing, criminals use social manipulation and deceptive techniques to trick people. They send fake text messages that appear to come from well-known organizations, such as banks, government agencies, or shops.

Differences between smishing and phishing

The major difference between smishing and other forms of phishing is that smishing is done specifically via text messages, while phishing usually takes place via e-mails or phone calls. Smishing takes advantage of the popularity and trust people have in text messages to lure their victims.

How does it work?

Smishing works by using various techniques to trick people into stealing their personal information. Smishers often employ the following techniques:

  • Forgery of sender: They send text messages supposedly from a trusted source, such as a bank or a well-known company. This gives the illusion of legitimacy and trust.
  • Urgency: Smishers create a sense of urgency in their messages, claiming that immediate action is needed to solve a problem or receive a reward. This puts pressure on people to act quickly without sufficient thought.
  • Request for personal information: Smishers often ask for sensitive information, such as bank account numbers, passwords, or credit card details. They do this under the guise of verification or to solve a so-called problem.

Some examples of common smishing attacks are:

  • Fake message from a bank: Victims receive a text message claiming that a suspicious transaction has taken place in their bank account. They are then asked to provide their login details to fix the problem, giving the smishers access to their bank account.
  • Lottery: People receive a text message saying they have won a big prize in a lottery. However, to claim the prize, they must first provide personal details or pay an amount. This leads to identity theft or financial loss.

Risks and consequences

Smishing involves several risks and can have serious consequences for victims. The potential damages that can be caused by smishing include:

  • Financial loss: If victims provide personal financial information, such as bank account numbers or credit card details, smishers can use this information to steal money from their accounts or carry out fraudulent transactions.
  • Identity theft: By tricking victims into providing personal information, such as citizen service numbers or dates of birth, smishers can take over their identities. This can lead to opening fake accounts, obtaining loans, or committing other criminal activities in the victim’s name.
  • Mental challenges: Victims may lose trust in people and technology, making them distrustful.

Recognizing smishing attacks

To recognize smishing attacks, the following tips and techniques may come in handy:

  • Be vigilant for unexpected messages: Watch out for text messages from unknown senders or senders you have had no previous interaction with. Be especially careful if the message comes unsolicited.
  • Check the sender: Look for the sender’s phone number or name. Look out for strange characters, spelling mistakes, or unusual formatting. A legitimate message usually comes from a recognizable and familiar phone number or company name.
  • Pay attention to language and tone of voice: Messages that require urgent action, contain exaggerated rewards, or threatening language are often a sign of smishing. Be wary if the message tries to pressure you.
  • Avoid clicking on links: Do not open links in text messages, especially if they seem suspicious. These links can lead to fake websites designed to steal personal information.
  • Verify through another source: If you receive a suspicious message from a trusted organization, call that organization’s official phone number to verify the authenticity of the message. Never use the phone number that may be provided in the suspicious message.

How to protect yourself from smishing:

To protect yourself from smishing, you can take the following measures:

  • Caution: Never share confidential information, such as PIN codes, passwords, or bank details via text messages. Legitimate organizations never ask for such sensitive data via text message.
  • Use 2FA: Enable two-step verification for all your online accounts, including bank accounts. This provides an extra layer of security even if you were to accidentally provide your login details to a smishing attack.
  • Software updates: Make sure both your operating system and apps are updated regularly. These updates often contain security patches that protect you from known vulnerabilities.
  • Training and Education: Be aware of the risks and learn how to spot suspicious text messages. Train yourself, and your employees, through security awareness training.

FAQ Smishing

What is the difference between phishing and smishing?

Phishing refers to the use of fake e-mails to steal personal information, while smishing refers to the use of misleading text messages for the same purposes. So the main difference is the communication channel used.

What should I do if I receive a suspicious text message?

If you receive a suspicious text message, do not click on links, do not provide personal information, and do not respond to the message.