When you’re feeling lonely, a notification from your phone can seem exciting. Just be careful when clicking on any links. Spam scams are on the rise, so keep an eye out for spam lurking in your phone.
Not familiar with the term “smishing”? Here’s a quick summary: A smiley scam is a random text message that invites you to click on a link. Despite the silly name, smishing is serious. In 2020, these fraudsters stole 86 million dollars from the Americans.
Bots are getting even worse in 2022. As of June, the FCC had received 8,500 complaints of text message scams. This is a 49% growth from 2019!
Here’s the backstory
Unfortunately, the problem is not going away anytime soon. This is such a common problem that the US government recently issued an official warning. The FCC has made it clear: SMS phishing attacks are on the rise this year — so are you must be ready
If you’re anything like our content queen Ellie, you know it. She gets tons of robotexts every month. Here’s one that recently appeared in her posts:
Check it out and you’ll notice the signature red flags. Spam texts always have embedded links. They also have text specifically designed to get you to click on that link.
For example, this text says that someone has been added to her recipient list. The scammer wants Ellie to wonder, “What’s going on? Who is this person?” The scammer wants her to feel confused and intrigued, so she clicks on the link.
Note that the text purports to be from Citibank
Fraudsters often pretend to be from reputable organizations. They want you to think, “Oh, I trust this company. If it’s from Citibank, this is the link must be reliable!”
Unfortunately, you can’t trust random texts to be reliable. Imposter scams are the most common type of scam the FCC heard about in 2020. They aren’t going away anytime soon, so you have to be on your toes.
Spams are often trying to annoy you. They want to stress you out, so you feel a sense of urgency. Take this scam for example:
This text threatens Eli. He informs her that if she doesn’t click the link immediately, her bank account could be at risk. The cybercriminal behind the text wants her to fear losing access to her debit card. It says “Check now” and adds a time limit of 24 hours.
As a security expert, Ellie recognized this text as a hoax. She didn’t click on the link. But when you see how the message is designed to evoke emotion, it’s easy to see why so many people fall for the mockery.
Why you should never click on links
Once you hit it, the link will take you to a malicious web page that downloads malware onto your device. Or, if it doesn’t infect your device with viruses, it redirects you to malicious websites, links, and ads. Bottom line: Clicking on these links puts you at risk.
If you value cybersecurity, be wary of random texts, even if they appear to be from legitimate sources. Fraudsters love pretend they are from legitimate companies. They will say they are from Citibank, Amazon, Google or other reliable institutions, but they are just criminals lying through their teeth.
But not all scammers will name the company. Others will say that an item you never bought is already on its way, as in this text:
This scam tried to convince Ellie that she would get something she didn’t buy. That should make her intrigued, so she clicks the link. But she knew the message was a lie—nothing came in the mail.
Watch out for these red flags
There are many different types of spam text messages on iPhone and Android. Most try to ignite your emotions, while others want to intrigue you. Others play on our love of freebies:
Regardless, they all have one thing in common. They want you to click on links.
Many people wonder, “Why am I suddenly receiving spam on my iPhone?” I know I went to Google and asked, “Why am I suddenly getting spam in 2022?” I thought I should have been safe because I avoided a fatal error that promotes spamming.
There is one bright side. The FCC has outlined several protection strategies to keep in mind:
- Do not click on links: Too much risk. If you need to do business with a legitimate company, type their web address directly into your browser instead of clicking on links. Nnever trust unsolicited texts or emails with links.
- Never send private information via text message to unknown recipients: Anything you share can and will be used against you. Or it could be sold on the Dark Web.
- Do not respond to suspicious messages: It’s rare for companies to contact you out of the blue. If you think you’re dealing with a scammer, don’t respond. Otherwise, you’ll let them know they have a work phone number — and they’ll send more spam in the future.
- File a complaint with the FCC and forward spam to 7726: Here are the steps to do it right.
There are also a few surefire signs you should keep in mind:
Signs of a scam text message:
☑️ Unknown numbers
☑️ Misleading information
☑️ Mysterious links
☑️ Sales offers
☑️ Incomplete information
— FCC (@FCC) July 28, 2022
Are you fed up with spam, phishing and other cyber threats? Here’s how to stay safe in 2022
According to the FCC, spam is getting worse. Here are 5 ways to stop them
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