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Beware of Text Message Phishing — or “Smishing” — Scams

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Text messages like these are quick to grab our attention. Studies show that the majority of incoming text messages are opened within 15 minutes of receipt. Scam artists know this and sometimes target consumers with “phishing” scams via text message or SMS (short message service).

Text message or SMS phishing—also called “smishing”—occurs when scam artists use deceptive text messages to lure consumers into providing their personal or financial information. The scam artists that send smishing messages often impersonate a government agency, bank, or other company to lend legitimacy to their claims. Smishing messages typically ask consumers to provide usernames and passwords, credit and debit card numbers, PINs, or other sensitive information that scam artists can use to commit fraud. It can happen like this:

“John” received a text message that appeared to be from his local credit union. The message stated that his debit card had been deactivated. The message instructed him to call a toll-free telephone number, which he did. When John received a recording that asked him to enter his debit card and PIN, he hung up. He then called his credit union and spoke to a representative who stated his debit card was working properly and the text message was a scam. from a local telephone number that stated she could receive a free $1,000 shopping spree at a big discount store if she was one of the first 100 visitors to a website linked to the message.

"Catherine" immediately opened the link and was asked to enter her email address and credit card number. Catherine noticed that the website had the same color scheme and a similar font as the store’s website, but the store’s name was spelled incorrectly and the URL did not start with “https://” like a secure website usually does. Catherine closed the link without providing any information and called her cell phone company to report the text message as a scam.

Avoid Smishing Scams

Don’t be misled by smishing scams. Remember the following:

How to Report Smishing

Contact the bank, government agency, or company that the scam artist is impersonating so it can alert others and work with law enforcement to investigate the activity.

Forward smishing messages to short code 7726—which spells “SPAM” on your keypad. Doing so allows cell phone carriers to identify the senders of smishing messages and take steps to limit messages from them going forward.

File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) and the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”). These agencies enforce the laws regarding scam calls and text messages. You may contact the FTC and FCC as follows:

Federal Trade Commission
Consumer Response Center
600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20580
(877) 382-4357
www.consumer.ftc.gov external link icon

Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street, SW
Washington, D.C. 20554
(888) 225-5322
www.fcc.govexternal link icon

For more information, contact the Office of Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson as follows:

Office of Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson
445 Minnesota Street, Suite 1400
St. Paul, MN 55101
(651) 296-3353 or (800) 657-3787
TTY: (651) 297-7206 or TTY: (800) 366-4812

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