What is SMiShing?


Holiday 2012 — Security News and Advice

You’re probably used to thinking about Internet security when it comes to your laptop or computer, but don’t forget to be vigilant with your smartphone as well.

The proliferation of Android, Blackberry, iPhone and other devices is allowing cybercriminals to target you in new and surprising ways, such as by sending dangerous alerts via short message service (SMS), or text messages.

If you are familiar with Internet security terminology you are probably already aware of phishing scams, where cybercriminals try to trick you into revealing personal information by sending an email pretending to be a legitimate business or organization. Text messaging scams called SMiShing—short for SMS phishing—are very similar to traditional phishing except they happen via text message versus email. In a typical scam, you would receive a text message that appears to be from your financial institution, asking you to confirm or supply account information. This is especially dangerous since some of us are used to receiving official text messages from our banks.

In a recent, widespread SMiShing scam in the U.S., identity thieves sent thousands of text messages to random mobile phone users reading: "Wells Fargo notice: Your card ending in 4868 has been deactivated." The message also included a phone number which, if called, sent users to an automated system requesting everything a criminal would need for identity theft: personal information like account and Social Security numbers, as well as login information and passwords.

To help keep your personal information safe from SMiShing and identity theft, follow these simple tips:

  • Remember that legitimate financial institutions will never request personal information via a text message, email, or automated voicemail. If you receive a text message requesting sensitive information, it is most likely a scam. If you are unsure, contact your bank directly.
  • Identity thieves use the urgency inherent in a text message to catch you off guard. Don’t panic when you receive a SMiShing text or click on any links it may include. The link could trigger your smartphone to download malicious software designed to access the information stored on your phone.
  • If you receive a suspicious message, contact your financial institution immediately to inform them of the scam. Not only will this provide you with the comfort of knowing your personal and Internet security has not been compromised, but it is also the best way to report the crime and help protect others from falling victim to identity theft.
  • If you have a smartphone make sure to protect it with software such as McAfee® Mobile Security, which includes antivirus protection, app protection, backup and restore functions and tracking in the case of loss or theft.

Finally, it is always a good idea to stay educated on the latest threats, and how to avoid them. Learn more about mobile phishing attacks and how to keep your mobile device safe.

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