Home Consumer Smishing: A Silly Word for a Serious Fraud Risk

Smishing: A Silly Word for a Serious Fraud Risk


By Octavio Blanco

There was clearly something fishy afoot when Beth, a disabled 50-year-old from North Carolina, received two text messages saying she had money available to add to her phone’s digital wallet.

One message said, “Beth put this in your wallet and use it whenever.” The other said, “The balance on this account is yours. no be to share [sic].” Both messages included hyperlinks.

Beth, who asked not to use her last name, had just become the target of “smishing,” an increasingly common tactic criminals are using to commit fraud.

Instead of clicking on the embedded links, Beth deleted the messages and reported them to the Better Business Bureau, a business watchdog. “Money doesn’t just drop in your lap,” she told Consumer Reports, explaining why the messages raised her suspicions. Beth says she has been on high alert for fraud since being targeted by calls from scammers claiming to be officials from the IRS or Social Security.

The word smishing combines SMS, the primary technical format for text messaging, and phishing. As in other phishing attacks, the criminals masquerade as government workers, tech support representatives, long-lost friends, or financial institutions, and try to lure people into divulging personal details that could lead to fraudulent credit card purchases or identity theft.