Texting is not only gaining wide usage with people of all ages, it’s also become another avenue for criminals to scam the public.
A text message from a criminal trying to steal your personal information is known as smishing.
You’ve probably been on the receiving end of a smishing attempt, even if you don’t realize it.
A term that combines “SMS” (Short Message Service) with “phishing,” smishing messages are being used by scammers much like cold phone calls to unsuspecting recipients. The number of smishing incidents rose 30% between 2017 and 2018 and Consumer Reports predicts that the number will continue to rise sharply in the next few years. Partly due to the popularity of texting, smishing works. It lures in a lot of people.
How to Detect a Smisher
A smishing scheme essentially involves teasing you with text messages and trying to get you to respond. The scammer might act like an old friend, pose as the police, say they’re from your bank, the IRS or the Social Security Administration or try to convince you that there’s a problem with your cell phone and you need to download an app, which ends up being malware.
These schemes work because people tend to be more trusting of text messages than phone calls. Most people know to hang up on a scammer but it’s more difficult to detect fraud through a text message. It might seem like it’s really from your niece or an old college buddy.
The best policy is to not respond to a smishing attempt. Simply delete the text message and don’t click on any links. To spot a smishing message, look for these characteristics:
- It comes from an unfamiliar number.
- It comes from a familiar number but doesn’t sound like a person you really know.
- The message is pushy or confusing.
- The person says they are from your bank, credit card company or another organization.
- The person is claiming to be an authority figure like the police, FBI, IRS or social security administrator.
In reality, the authorities don’t text people and these scammers are just attempting to scare you. Plus, you can determine whether your bank or credit card company is really trying to reach you by calling their official customer service number and asking about it. It also helps to keep your phone’s operating system up to date with the latest anti-scamming updates.
Already the Victim of Smishing? Here’s What to Do Next
If a smisher is contacting you, report it to your local police department as well as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Smishing is a type of fraud and the perpetrators can be prosecuted. The authorities will need details from you like the contents of the message, the phone numbers involved, and the date and time. Make sure you tell them whether you clicked on any links or did anything the scammer told you to do.
When you’ve already fallen for a smishing scam, it’s a good idea to set up a fraud alert through one of the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. This will add a layer of protection to help prevent a scammer from using your credit.
Take Legal Action After Getting Smished
It’s also important to seek legal advice about what to do if you’re the victim of fraud or identity theft. For example, smishing scams sometimes occur after other legitimate transactions through online listings or newspaper classifieds. A person you previously contacted to buy or sell an item later attempts to get money from you through smishing.
In this situation, you’ll need legal advice about documenting what’s happening, working with the police and pursuing your legal options. Your attorney can help you understand what you should and shouldn’t do in this situation, so you don’t inadvertently make things worse. Taking legal action is one of the best ways to stand up to a scammer and help put an end to smishing.
Have a Legal Question About Fraud in Maryland? We Have Answers.
If you or a loved one has been the victim of identity fraud, the attorneys at Zirkin and Schmerling Law are experts at answering all your questions and guiding you through challenging process of Maryland criminal law and fraud. We can help you protect your future as you consider your options. Call us at 410-753-4611 to set up an appointment with one of our criminal law attorneys today.