First Came Phishing, Now There’s … Smishing

Most of us have heard of the term “phishing.” But did you know that phishing done by SMS (that stands for Short Message Service) text message has its own name? That’s right, it’s called “smishing.” (Get it?
SMS + phishing?) And just like other types of phishing, smishing relies on the senders pretending to be someone they are not in hopes of getting a hold of your money or personal information.

How It Works

You receive a text message that appears to be from a government agency or a company you are otherwise familiar with.

The text asks for personal information, such as a Social Security number or an online account password.

It may direct you to click a link to resolve a problem or access a service. A new twist: During the ongoing pandemic, it may relate to COVID-19 testing, vaccines, or contact tracing.

What You Should Know

Scammers use technology to make it appear that texts are coming from a particular number, like the IRS or Social Security Administration, or from a company you may do business with.

The message will relay seemingly urgent information that requires you to act right away — your benefits have been suspended, your account has been compromised, or you need to sign up for a COVID-19 vaccine, for example.

The message will include a link for you to click on to address the situation.

What You Should Do

Develop a habit of pausing before clicking on texts. Surveys show we are more likely to read and react to a text message than an email, which is why scammers have flocked to smishing.

DON’T click on links from suspicious texts; it may result in loading malicious software onto your device that will harvest your credentials or sending you to a website that will do the same.

If you have reason to believe the text may be legitimate, reach out to the sender — the IRS, UPS, Amazon, or whomever — at a number or web address you know to be legitimate.

When it comes to fraud, vigilance is our number one weapon. You have the power to protect yourself and your loved ones from scams. If you can SPOT a scam, you can STOP a scam. Please share this alert with friends and family.

For more information, to report an issue, or to simply ask a question, call AARP’s Fraud Watch Network toll-free at 877-908-3360.

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