30 million text-based ‘Smishing’ scams sent daily
Darcy Wintonyk and Lynda Steele, CTV British Columbia
Published Friday, September 28, 2012 10:23AM PDT
Last Updated Tuesday, October 2, 2012 8:28PM PDT
If you’ve ever received a text message saying you’ve won a special prize you were likely the victim of the latest threat to smartphones: a ‘Smishing’ scam.
The messages, which often say you’re the winner of an expensive prize, like an iPad, try to trick you into clicking a link to a website. If you do you’ll likely infect your smartphone by downloading a virus and put your personal information at risk.
Smishing uses techniques similar to phishing, which are emails and websites sent by criminals designed to look like they come from well-known and trusted businesses.
Michelle Morton said she was confused when she started getting weird texts on her phone, but was wary enough not to click the link.
"It said that I won a new iPhone from this random number. And it wouldn't even be a phone number. It would just be a few digits, which I thought was very strange,” Morton told CTV’s Steele on Your Side.
An incoming smishing attempt will often look like it’s sent from a familiar company, like Apple or Walmart, or a financial institution or credit card company.
The fake prize is just one of the smishing schemes. The scammers also send a text asking you to phone them back for an important message, but when you do it connects you to a premium phone number which charges $1.50 to your phone bill.
Millions of Canadians are getting these messages. It’s estimated 30 million smishing texts are sent to cell phone users across North America, Europe and the UK every day.
"The bad guys are trying to skim information from you that they could use to run up your credit card bill, scam you in some other way, even steal your identity," Telus spokesman Shawn Hall says about the scams.
The cyber scammers are relentless, he adds.
"As fast as we lock them down, they find new ways to make money,” Hall said. “It's a business."
The security experts at AVG say smartphone users can protect themselves by downloading security software that picks up SMS spam and blocks it.
AVG offers free security software for android phones on its website.
Hall says all telecommunications companies face a daily battle to keep these scam texts at bay.
"It's a bit like a running guerilla war, if you will, where we've got a dedicated security team to keep them out, they're trying to find ways to get in to our customers to try to scam them,” he said.
Hall says there was even a fake text going around that claimed to be from Telus, but was really a virus.
Aside from downloading security software on your smartphone, there are some thing you can do to minimize the risk:
- Delete any suspicious texts right away without reading it
- Never reply or follow the instructions on a text that asks you for personal information
- Beware of texts that come from a number (usually it's 5000) instead of a phone number -- they're usually from scammers trying to hide their identity
- If you get a suspicious text alert your cell provider so they can investigate and block the scam artist
Have your say: Have you received a smishing text on your cell phone?