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What Is Smishing?

Whatever it is, it’s on the rise, and you need to watch for it.

Smishing is simply text-messaging spam. Learn to recognize and respond appropriately to it.
What's that on my mobile?
(Image: canva.com)

Smishing is nothing more than phishing using SMS text messages.

I’ll review some of the examples I’ve received and go over exactly what you should and should not do when you receive one of these messages.

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TL;DR:

Smishing: text messaging spam

Spammers are now using SMS text messages to attempt to lure you into compromising yourself. It’s important you understand this possibility exists and that you ignore or block text messages from numbers you don’t recognize.

It’s on the rise

Honestly, I’m surprised there hasn’t been more of it sooner.

Phishing via email has become commonplace. We expect it. We learn to recognize it. Hopefully, we don’t fall for it.

Text messaging spam, on the other hand, is rather new, at least in the quantities we’re seeing today. Not everyone has seen it. That means many don’t know what to do when they get it.

It all feels very innocuous until you fall for it — just like email phishing.

What to not do

The single most important thing to take away from this discussion is this: ignore text messages from people you don’t know.

This can be surprisingly difficult because of how smishing is constructed. Here’s one example.

Smishing example
Smishing example. Click for larger image. (Screenshot: askleo.com)

It looks like a misdirected text. It’s crafted to make you think that someone is simply texting the wrong number. It plays on your kindness, since many people would respond to this saying, “You have the wrong number.”

That’s not what’s happening at all. If you reply, the person at the other end will politely apologize and then attempt to engage you in further conversation. Eventually, after having built up some rapport, they will encourage you to visit a link.

A link that further misleads you and compromises your security — just like phishing.

Sometimes they don’t even try to be creative.

Another smishing attempt.
Another smishing attempt. Click for larger image. (Screenshot: askleo.com)

The intent is the same: to get you to respond, engage in conversation, and eventually do something that is not secure.

Do this instead

You’ll note that both of my examples above have a ‘stop’ indicator prior to the message. That’s because I marked these as spam in my telephone’s messaging app.

Exactly how you do this varies depending on your phone and the SMS text messaging app you use. Most will have either a long press menu or a three dots “…” menu that includes a Report Spam option.

In my case, reporting spam also blocks that number. That means any further attempts to contact me via SMS from that number will not be delivered. I recommend letting that happen, especially when you realize the phone number is not one you recognize.

Finally, some carriers also include automatic spam detection, which I recommend enabling. Many of the text messages I had previously been getting alerts for are now automatically and silently shuffled into that spam folder without me having to notice or do a thing.

Do this

Learn to recognize smishing. In particular, don’t respond to text messages from unknown senders. If you have the option, mark smishing attempts as spam in your SMS text messaging app and block those numbers from attempting to contact you again.

But above all, don’t click links or do things that sound suspicious if you are engaging in a conversation with someone you’ve never met.

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16 comments on “What Is Smishing?”

  1. Honestly, just like any other phishing attempt — or spam too, for that matter — you really can’t go wrong with pressing “DELETE.” Period, end of sentence (and smishing attempt).

    Reply
  2. Smishing is rampant here in India

    Many people received messages that their electricity bill is unpaid and their electricity connection will be disconnected.
    And they give a link to further contact the customer support regarding this issue

    Reply
  3. A different question: with email, I can hover to see the sender and then it’s easier to ignore or click spam. With SMS, I often get a phone number that I don’t recognize, but we all know people whose number we don’t know. Is it ok to open the SMS text and then delete and/or mark it spam once I can see the message is likely spam?

    Reply
  4. I cannot thank Leo and his Team enough for all the good advice they have given through the years. Your knowledge and expertise has saved many of us from harm in numerous ways. Thank you for caring,

    Reply
  5. Thank you so much for the information about smishing. I get these texts all the time and just delete them. I tried to find where I could put the text into spam, but my phone doesn’t have that choice for text, so I just “delete message”. I would hope that would take me off their list. Does it?

    Reply
  6. Most operators in the UK are signed up to a scheme whereby you can forward scam texts to’7726′. Info is collected by the National Cyber Security Centre, helping to stop the scammers.

    Reply
  7. This is such timely information. Several years ago I would get texts from a lady. Not my friend so they would figure it out. One day she said please contact me. It turned out her friends number was 1 digit off. That’s why her friend replied sometimes and not others. Would be sketchy to reach out now. You Tube is even getting spammed. It is nice to know reporting a number is an option. I will be finding that option tonight! Thank you for keeping so many of us informed about really important things. Barb

    Reply

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