What is a Text Message Scam?

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  • Written By: Mary Elizabeth
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 08 August 2018
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A text message scam, also known as a SMiShing attack, is a form of phishing. Phishing refers to using an email or phone message as a bait or lure to trick an unsuspecting target into divulging valuable information, such as account numbers, passwords, Social Security number, and the like, or to trick him or her into downloading malware onto a computer. With a text message scam, similar techniques are used, except the medium used is the text message.

There are a variety of ways that this type of scam may work. One way is to frighten the recipient. A message purporting to come from a financial institution is sent saying that an account will be closed or has been defaulted on, or that charges will be made to the recipient’s account unless the recipient makes contact and provides necessary information, such as the bank account number, username, and password. The recipient is either asked to message or call back or go to a website and enter information. Another scam involves a message that offers a desirable product or service at a low price, but only if the recipient will go to a particular site and download some type of information or confirmation.


Avoiding getting trapped by a text message scam is possible by following some simple advice. First, people should always remember that financial institutions do not ask for personal information in emails or text messages. Second, they should always check the apparent sender identity — many times, the false text messages are directed at a wide range of people who live in the region of a financial institution, and it is not unknown to receive a notice of account closing from a bank at which the receiver has never had an account. Third, individuals should never contact a financial institution using a link or phone number in an SMS message or email; instead, they should find the contact information published on the bankcard or in the phone book. Fourth, news sources and cell phone carriers are often quick to publish reports of scams when they hit, so keeping an eye out can help people recognize scams and ignore such messages.

Other steps that may be helpful include registering a cell phone on the National Do Not Call Registry and on the state list, if one exists. Opting out of text message contact whenever possible is also a good plan. People can also inform their cell carrier when they receive an SMS that appears to be a scam to help prevent future attacks.


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Post 5

I wonder if text messages and emails are starting to take on the same topics. I have gotten emails before from some unknown person claiming that they will give me a million dollars if I just give them my account information.

It probably won't be very long, if it hasn't happened already, until we start getting text messages of this nature. Since most people can access the internet on their phones now anyway, I imagine that text messages will target users who can bank online.

Post 4

If I get a text message of any kind other than a personal note, I know it's a scam. My grandkids and all my friends know that I don't even know how to send a text message! I had to have help from my granddaughter to even open and read the one she sent me.

Post 3

kylee07drg – I think I know the kind you are talking about. I started getting text messages that said I had won a $1,000 gift card to a certain store, and I was suspicious.

The sender had no way of knowing I ever shopped at this store, because I hadn't given out my number to any sales clerk. I thought about visiting the website just to check it out, but I became fearful that it might give my computer a virus, so I didn't do it.

I think that even if I had registered to win a gift card from the store, I would visit or call the store first to make sure it was real. I wouldn't go online and risk harming my computer with some scam.

Post 2

There are some unsolicited text messages that I don't mind receiving. For example, someone once got my number by mistake and kept sending me text message jokes every day. There was nothing in them that could harm me or my phone.

However, I soon began getting outrageous discount offers to well known department stores. I didn't bite the bait. I had a feeling that those reputable stores would only send out texts to people who had requested them.

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