If you have ever received a congratulatory text saying that you won a sweepstakes or raffle that you never entered, odds are, you have experienced smishing. A portmanteau of phishing and SMS, smishing is a means of fraudulently attaining personal information via text. It can look differently depending on the sender, but whether there is a link to click on, or an ask for information, it’s important to be aware of these attacks and know how to protect yourself.
Unlike phone calls, fraudulent texts seldom come through labeled “scam likely,” so it’s up to us to be vigilant. It’s easy to say “don’t give out your personal information,” but in the information age sharing is commonplace, and protecting your data integrity is harder than ever. Often, when we give consent to a website, loyalty program, or sign-up page there can be hidden verbiage in the terms and conditions where we consent to have our information shared. Between unintentionally sharing our information and data thieves out to acquire it fraudulently, it’s easy to fall prey to these tricks, but there are steps you can take to protect yourself.
Something you can do to stay safe is to think twice before interacting with a text you receive. Ask yourself:
- "Does this make sense?”
- “Am I expecting a message like this?”
- “Do I know this person?”
If you are not expecting a link to a gift card, or if you haven’t entered any raffles, it’s unlikely that you would receive one or win. Clicking on unfamiliar links can take you to unsecure websites where hackers may attempt to collect your data. One key way to protect yourself is to avoid these links and do not engage with the message. At times, even just replying “STOP” can confirm that your number is active, making it more appealing to fraudsters.
Other steps you can take include preventing others from acquiring your phone number. Don’t give it out to just anyone. Be your first line of defense and think twice as to whether or not your phone number is truly needed. From retailers to online websites, giving your number out less frequently and with intention can prevent potential scams down the road. You are in charge of you data security and there are steps you can take to make sure it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.