SMS-based marketing has seen an increase in adoption by businesses, mostly for automating outreach activities. However, as is the case with any popular marketing trend, SMS-based marketing activities have also been exploitatively used for cyber criminals and fraudsters by sending out scam messages, and trapping unsuspecting end users through clever, yet malicious techniques.
A common term that industry analysts tend to use for such activities is ‘smishing’. This type of fraudulent activity involves sending scam messages by claiming to be a trusted party, and asking for personal and sensitive information – like OTP (One-Time Pin) codes, and other financially sensitive information. What’s more alarming is that these messages can seem to come from known providers like banks, insurance providers, etc.
So how can one spot a malicious and fraudulent SMS message? Here are a few ways you can spot a fraud SMS.
One of the best ways to identify a fraudulent SMS is checking their provider’s mobile phone number. If the mobile phone number has 11 digits, then it’s safe to ignore, or even block this number. Most known and legitimate business providers use 10 digit numbers, and do not make their calls from unknown and strange looking numbers. So the next time you see a call or a text from a number with 11 digits, just ignore the message and block this number to prevent any future intimations.
Lottery and other surprise winning announcements
This type of fraudulent SMS activity has been one of the oldest tricks in the book, yet it still is successful in defrauding millions of users worldwide. This technique is used by a number of scammers today, and this is because of how attractive the message can seem. For many unsuspecting end users, the announcement of lottery wins or big prize cash prizes will be met by excitement, and users tend to provide sensitive information when they’re asked for details to release the payment. While service providers and legitimate businesses are warning their users of such fraudulent messages, this type of fraudulent activity can still trap elderly people, and anyone who isn’t technologically savvy.
Similar to fake price records, certain fraudulent SMS claim to be offering a fake refund for a previously used service. The message would also claim that any refund can only be processed if certain sensitive details are shared, and this is where unsuspecting users are scammed into giving their personal information. Companies have sent out multiple reminders to users to not open or read messages, yet a highly susceptible victim can easily be cheated by this scheme due to its attractive monetary claim.
Another form of fraudulent SMS activities is personal requests. Usually, the tone of such SMS would be pleading, humble, and sympathy-ridden from the reader. On reading such messages, unsuspecting users feel towards the plight of the message sender, and agree to help them by transferring cash. Once a large amount of cash is transferred, the fraudster would vanish, and become impossible to track down.
This form of fraudulent SMS activity relies on intimidation tactics by posing as a government agency. By threatening to take action over an alleged misdeed or transaction, certain fraudsters pose as government agencies, and threaten legal action or jail time, unless a specified amount is transferred as penalty dues.
Avoid SMS scams and educate others
SMS fraudsters have rapidly grown throughout the past decade, and they target unsuspecting and inexperienced users through false claims and intimidation tactics. Hence, it’s important to everyone to identify signs of a spam message, and also educate others (especially the elderly) on the perils of responding to these messages.