Spam texts are unsolicited messages sent to a user’s phone and can be a nuisance. Almost everyone has received a spam text at some point in their lives. For a lucky few, these texts are merely harmless marketing promotions. However, some spam texts are also used to scam unsuspecting users of their money and personal information.
How do spam texts work?
Spammers collect millions of phone numbers spread across social media, websites, and online directories. They then use a computer program to send out mass texts to these numbers, spoofing local numbers to appear as if the texts are coming from someone in your area code. When you receive a spam text, it will likely look like any other text message, but it may include links to the spammer’s website or landing page. These pages are often designed to acquire specific information from the recipient or get them to purchase products or services. Unfortunately, many spammers are far more malicious and use texts to spread SMS phishing messages.
What is SMS phishing?
SMS phishing, or smishing, is a type of social engineering scam that uses text messages to trick users into giving up personal information or access to their devices.
Much like common phishing scams, smishing attacks will often appear to be from a legitimate source, such as your bank or another company you do business with. The text message may claim an issue with your account, and you must take action to avoid a negative consequence. These messages include links that may appear from a company’s legitimate but are designed to steal login credentials, credit card numbers, or other sensitive information. In some cases, clicking on the link may instantly download malware onto your device, enabling cybercriminals to wreak havoc from within.
What makes smishing attacks so effective is that users typically can’t see the destination of a link on a text message unless they click it. On a desktop, simply hovering the mouse over a link will reveal the URL destination, making it easy to avoid dangerous email spam. Cybercriminals may also shorten links on spam texts to make them appear less suspicious. Plus, when users read text messages on the go, they may be more likely to click on a link without thinking twice.
How can you protect yourself from spam messages?
While spam texts and smishing scams are becoming more common, there are many simple things you can do to avoid them:
1. Never click on suspicious links
If you see a link on a text message from an unknown sender, do not click it. Only interact with messages that come from known and trusted contacts. If there truly is an urgent issue that requires your attention, verify the message by contacting the company directly through an official customer service number or website.
2. Don’t respond to the scammer
If you get an unsolicited message from someone you don’t know, don’t reply to it in any way. That means you shouldn’t even respond with things like ‘wrong number’ or ‘, please stop texting me. Responding to spam texts only confirms to the sender that your number is active, which can prompt the scammers to send you even more spam.
3. Register your number on Australia’s Do Not Call database
The Do Not Call Register is a database of numbers that telemarketers are not allowed to call or text. You can add your mobile or landline number to the registry, and it will stop unwanted text messages from actual companies. While it won’t do anything to prevent smishing attempts completely, it will at least reduce the number of spam texts you receive.
4. Report spam texts
When you receive a spam text, you should report it to the proper authorities. You can contact major mobile network operators in Australia like Optus, Telstra, and Vodafone. You should also report spam to ReportCyber, Australia Communications and Media Authority, and Scamwatch. This will help authorities track down the source of the spam and take appropriate action to prevent scammers from targeting other users.
5. Block numbers from unknown senders
Most phones have a built-in feature that allows you to filter messages from suspected spammers. This will stop any future messages or calls from that number from coming through. Keep in mind, however, that cybercriminals and spammers can switch phone numbers to get around being blocked. If you continue to receive messages from what appears to be the same sender, it’s best to report it as spam.
To block an unknown number on an iPhone, open the suspected spam text and tap the ‘i icon in the upper right-hand corner. Scroll down to the bottom of the next page and tap Block this Caller. Android users can block numbers by opening the text message and tapping the icon in the upper right-hand corner. Tap Block Number and select Block & report spam.
6. Enable spam protection on your phone
Moreover, IPhone and Android users can take advantage of built-in spam protection features to reduce smishing messages they receive. If you’re using an iPhone, go to Settings > Messages and toggle on the ‘Filter Unknown Senders’ setting. On the other hand, if you’re on Android, go to Settings > Spam protection > Enable spam protection.
Being critical of every text message is key to protecting yourself from smishing scams. Empower IT can help you weed out spam texts. We’re a leading managed IT services provider that offers comprehensive protection through network security, mobile device management, and security awareness training. Contact us now.