The Postal Inspection Service has a message for consumers: Don’t become a “smishing” victim.
The law enforcement agency is warning the public about the scam — short for SMS phishing — in which fraudsters impersonate banks, credit card companies and even the Postal Service in text messages to lure recipients into divulging personal financial data.
Smishing is on the rise as consumers rely on their phones more and more — for bill paying, for shopping, even for multi-factor authentication.
Common lures include “your account has been suspended,” “there is suspicious activity on your account” and “there is a package waiting for you at the Post Office.” Some smishers have even taken advantage of the coronavirus pandemic and contact tracing to pull off their flimflams.
“Educating people on how to identify a fake text and not click on the link is the best method we have to combat this scam,” said Andrea Avery, the Inspection Service’s national public information officer.
To that end, the agency’s website has a new smishing page with several suggestions for what to do when you receive a text message asking for personal information. These include:
• Think. Verify the identity of the sender and ask yourself why they’re asking.
• Don’t reply or click on links. Doing so may install malware on your phone.
• Delete. Delete the text. Save a screenshot if possible.
• Report. Report the text to the business or agency the scammer is impersonating.
• Block spam and install security updates. The customer service department at your provider can help if you’re unsure about how to do this.
• Think of personal information like cash. It can be used for any number of financial frauds. Be as circumspect about your personal data as you are about cash.
Smishing can be reported to the Inspection Service Cybercrime Team by sending an email, including a screenshot of the text, to email@example.com.
The Inspection Service website has additional information, including a public service announcement featuring Avery.