Residents warned about new text messaging scam called “Smishing”

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("170 - Typing" by Hillary, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has released a new consumer alert on “Smishing.” Smishing is when a scammer sends text messages to consumers appearing to be from a trusted source.

Smishing, a blending of the words SMS and phishing, is when scammers send text messages pretending to be from trusted sources

Smishing scams are like phishing scams for emails except they arrive as text messages. The scammer’s goal is for consumers to respond to the texts with personal information or to click on links that install malware.

“Dishonest individuals are always trying to find new ways to obtain our personal information,” said Schuette. “My Consumer Protection team continually works to stay current on the latest scams, so they can make sure Michigan residents are aware of these scams and know how to identify the scams and avoid them.”

With more than 20 billion text messages sent every day in the United States, a growing number of those are from thieves trying to scam consumers. Smartphone users are three times more likely to fall for fake text messages than computer users, therefore text message scams are on the rise.

Common Smishing Scam

A common smishing tactic involves a text warning about a “problem” with one of your accounts and asking for your information to correct it.

In addition, some scammers, will pitch offers that seem too good to be true such as promises of free gifts and trips.

It is important to not respond to these texts, either by clicking on a link or providing information. You may download malware or become and identity theft victim.

The easiest way to avoid being scammed: delete the message.

How to Spot Smishing Scams

It is important to look out for the following:

A text message that appears to be your bank and states there is a problem with your account. A phone number is listed for you to call right away;
A text message from an unknown sender asking for you to call a number, click on link or respond with personal information;
A text message that reads: “REAL ROLEX 90% OFF, click here.”; and
A text message that says, “click here,” enter “x,” or reply “stop” to opt out of future messages.

How to Prevent Smishing Scams

Don’t respond to any suspicious numbers. Instead once you report it, delete the text and block the number;
Don’t share your phone number unless you know the person or organization well;
Beware of the fine print in user agreements for products or services that may use your phone number, like mobile apps and free ring-tone offers;
NEVER follow a text’s instructions to push a designated key to opt out of future messages; and
Report scam texts to the Federal Communications Commission online, by phone 888-225-5322; or by mail: FCC Consumer Complaints, 445 12th Street S.W., Washington D.C. 20554.

What You Need to Know

Neither the State of Michigan nor the federal government will contact you via text message. Federal law makes it illegal to send commercial text messages to a mobile device without the recipient’s permission. This law even applies if you haven’t put your name on a ‘Do-Not-Call-List’. Downloading apps and ringtones on your smartphone put you more at risk for your number to get in the hands of scammers. It is important to read the “terms of agreement” carefully before downloading anything to your device.

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