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What is Smishing and How Do You Prevent it?

First, there was phishing, an attack on users that acquire their personal information such as their passwords and credit card information by passing off a false website as a legitimate page. Now, as Internet users become more aware about suspicious messages either on websites or in their e-mail, cyber criminals are moving from websites to mobile phones to target their new victims.

The word smishing is a combination of SMS and phishing. Essentially, it refers the use of text messages to get sensitive information. In other words, it is phishing through the use of a mobile phone.

A smishing text message often poses itself as one sent by a bank or other familiar establishments. It may also alerts users about supposedly winning a prize or gift certificates. Some messages include a link or a toll-free number that the receiver is directed to call.

Smishing attacks are said to be increasing. Cloudmark, a security company, reports that 30 million of such messages are delivered in North America and Europe alone. Smishing may be considered as a form of spam or unsolicited messages, which has risen up to 400 percent in the United States.

To protect oneself from being a victim of smishing, users should keep in mind several things. First, smishing text messages often appear too good to be true. If users are still curious about the purported bank message, they can always call the bank to ask if they sent the message. Second, avoid clicking on links on unsolicited text messages. If the message asks for a reply, one should remember that replying only confirms to the cyber criminal that someone has received the message. This may prompt them to keep sending messages. Moreover, it is not advisable to give information such as bank account numbers and Social Security Numbers through text messages.  Some recommend getting security software for mobile devices.

Mobile phone users who receive a smishing text may forward the message to 7726 in the United States so that these messages will be recognized as spam. Meanwhile, those who have been scammed may call 1-877-HELP (4357) or visit the Federal Trade Commission website at ftc.gov to report a complaint.

via cnet