What Is Smishing?
Smishing—or SMS/text message phishing—is the use of text messaging to steal personal information and money and commit fraud. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) provides helpful information at How to Recognize and Report Spam Text Messages.
Learn to Spot Smishes
Fraudulent text/SMS messages are always unsolicited. That is, they just show up on your phone and are not a response to a text that you sent. They may prompt you to click a link or reply—usually by offering you something or provoking your curiosity or fear. Here are some smish examples:
- You have been in contact with someone who’s tested positive for the coronavirus—and you can only find more information by clicking a link in the message. This is a scam designed to collect and steal your personal information.
- You are offered a free coronavirus test kit—from an unknown number with no details. The scammers usually ask for your credit card number to cover shipping for a test kit that never existed.
- You get a text about your Coronavirus stimulus check—but you have already received yours. The IRS won’t contact you by text message. Any text about this topic is a scam trying to take your personal information.
- A bank texts to tell you your account is frozen—but it may not even be your bank. This is a scam to steal your banking information. The scammers will ask for your account number, supposedly for confirmation.
- You've won a prize—in a contest you never entered. Pressing the link in the text or replying will tangle you in requests for account information or payment of fees to receive a prize that never arrives.
- You are offered a low or no-credit interest credit card—but the deal seems too good to be true, and you never requested information about it. Following the link and entering information gives your personal identity information to a scammer.
- Your package has arrived—but you never ordered one. The fraudulent package tracking link will take you to a site asking for your credit card number to cover shipping costs or for other personal information.
- Your account has suspicious activity—according to a misspelled text message from an unknown number. Do not respond to unexpected or unsolicited text messages. Investigate using a trusted website or phone number instead.
If You Get a Smish
- Do not reply. That alerts the sender that the number is active.
- Do not open links from unknown numbers or unsolicited, unexpected texts.
- If you aren't sure and think the message may be legitimate, contact the sender through a verified phone number/website to check.
- You can report scam text messages to the FTC.