Smishing: A security threat targets cell phone users through text

Photo: Pixabay
Photo: Pixabay(WVLT)
Published: Feb. 13, 2020 at 8:36 AM AKST
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As technology evolves, scammers and hackers are getting more and more creative about how they try and steal your data. A new form of fraud targeting victims through text message.

It's a funny word for a serious fraud risk. Smishing, or SMS phishing is how scammers are targeting cell phone users. They're crafting text messages made to appear to come from legitimate organizations like Amazon, Facebook and even financial institutions. On Wednesday, Alaska Attorney General Kevin Clarkson warned of a phishing scam in which the scammers were pretending to be from Alaska USA Federal Credit Union.

"Scammers these days are very sophisticated. They do a lot of advance research, and often the link that they provide will redirect you to a website that they have created to look like a legitimate company's website," said Supervisory Special Agent with the FBI Cyber Squad, William Walton. "They're trying to break into the middle of your daily routine when you are less security conscious, and when you are more likely to respond

Walton says they're trying to trick you into giving up personal information or downloading malicious software. So if they're pretending to be real companies, how do you know when it's legit? Walton shared some tips about what to look out for.

"The first thing we say is, if it comes with a sense of urgency in the text, you know, 'you need to reset your password within the next hour, or your account will be locked out,' that sort of sense of urgency should be the first red flag. Secondly, no financial institution is going to contact you via text, and send you a link to reset any of your accounts," said Walton.

Taking down these scammers is something the FBI has been trying to combat for years.

"It is difficult to find them, but the FBI has a really good track record with success on overseas actors," said Walton. "Recently, it's been well publicized that we worked with Nigerian authorities to target a group of criminal hackers in Nigeria who were targeting Americans and stealing their personal information, so although smishing is a new vector for this sort of threat, it's a criminal approach that we're accustomed to seeing and dealing with."

Walton says these scammers act quickly, so if you've been falsely led to give up any information, contact your bank, Amazon or whichever organization it may be, and change your passwords immediately. If you believe you've fallen victim to one of these scams and have lost money, you can report it to the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center,


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