In a relatively new twist on an old scam, some cell phone users are reportedly getting spam text messages from their own phone numbers. Verizon and T-Mobile customers seem to be the new targets of this text messaging ruse, according to recent news reports.
In this article, I’ll tell you about this suspicious text messaging method called “smishing,” how to avoid it and what the major carriers are doing about it.
What Is ‘Smishing’?
Smishing is an alternative take on “phishing,” which uses email to defraud people. With smishing, criminals use SMS (short message service) texts to trick people into giving them their personal information.
What makes these spam text messages so alarming is that they can appear to come from your own phone number.
Money expert Clark Howard wants to warn you about these suspicious texts, which scammers are using to hide behind by using your phone’s caller ID function.
How Does Smishing Work and How Can You Avoid It?
“Here’s how it works,” Clark says. “You get a text from yourself, and you’re like, ‘Wow! What’s going on here?’ And like a fish with the hook in the mouth, you click on it and then you download a virus to your phone that allows criminals to engage in all kinds of mischief.”
Indeed, one Verizon customer received a text message that appeared to originate from their own number, which said: “Free Msg: Your bill is paid for March. Thanks, here’s a little gift for you,” according to CNET. And Team Clark member Lisa got five of these texts recently over the span of just a couple of days.
In a similar instance, a Reddit user wrote that a spam text message sent to their device contained a link to a Russian website.
If you receive a text message from your own number — or any suspicious text message for that matter — here’s Clark’s advice:
“If you get any text from the sender, supposedly being you, do not open it. If you can, on your phone, simply delete it, but regardless, don’t open them,” Clark says.
What Are the Major Cell Phone Carriers Doing About Smishing and Spam Texts?
To help stop scammers and spammers, Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T all ask that their customers forward any unsolicited or suspicious texts to S-P-A-M (7726) on their devices. Do not edit the text messages in any way.
According to T-Mobile, the company will “use this information to help identify the spam operations and take appropriate action.”
Clark says, “The cell phone carriers are working hard as they can to stop this scam.” With that being said, we all have to do our part.
Remember, if you get a text message that seems to have come from your own phone number, play it safe: You shouldn’t open it.
But what happens if you do open it? Here’s how to report spam text messages.