The threat of scam text messages may now seem distant, even quaint. With all the new, exotic and sophisticated attacks that have arisen in the past decade, surely text message attacks are low on the list. But, they can still be a big problem.
Short message service (SMS) scams are social engineering attacks that work like email phishing attacks. Called ‘smishing’ (a portmanteau of SMS and phishing), the attacks aim to trick the victim into providing information or access that benefits the attacker.
Current SMS Scam Tactics
One of the more effective and modern variants of scam text messages alert users of a new, incoming package delivery. Upon replying, the scammer harvests personal information for identity theft, monetary theft or the theft of company information. In one specific variant, the text directs victims to a website and offered a small gift (like a wristwatch) in exchange for participating in a survey. They’re asked for credit card information to cover shipping, and, of course, the credit card information is stolen.
Another scam text message campaign pretends to come from banks. It tricks victims into divulging their banking credentials. Once they’ve done so, the Emotet malware infects their machines.
Yet, another scam threatens the victim with violence if they don’t pay. These are different approaches to the same aim: all are designed to extract information from the target for nefarious purposes. What they all have in common is that they all want you to do something, like visit a website, click on a link or take some other action.
Other scam text messages reference food aid, jury duty, a mobile carrier, a bank, COVID-19 or human trafficking. It doesn’t always help to understand the specific content of text attacks that have already happened, though. Future attacks will be designed to surprise you with brand-new content.
Why People Fall for Scam Text Messages
Scammers are engaged in a back-and-forth fight with smartphone users as part of a larger arsenal of mobile scam techniques. And, they have two advantages. First, they leverage techniques that are the result of an evolutionary process of learning how to scam…