man looking at screen of smartphone

If you don't recognize the sender of that text message, delete it! It could be a virus waiting to happen.


People have been scamming their fellow humans since the beginning of civilization. Over the centuries, scenarios got more sophisticated -- think stock market scams and pyramid schemes -- and the stakes got higher. And then the tricksters and conmen of the world finally found their perfect medium: the Internet. The scams of the past seem almost quaint now, compared to our world today where people are routinely robbed of their life savings and even their identities, frequently never even coming face to face with the people who are ripping them off. There are Ponzi schemes, phishing, the ubiquitous Nigerian money transfer con -- and one of the newest tricks of the trade: SMiShing.

SMiShing is a close cousin of phishing that uses text messages on cellphones and smartphones instead of e-mails. The name comes from SMS (Short Message Service), which is text messaging technology [source: T-Mobile]. There are two main types of SMiShing scams:

  1. You receive a text that seems to come from a trusted source, like your bank or credit card company. The message is usually about something urgent -- your credit card has been stolen, for example, or your account has been frozen -- and instructs you to go to a certain Web site or call a phone number to verify your account information. The thieves on the receiving end then use your information to steal money from your account or open new credit cards in your name.
  2. You receive a text, again from a seemingly legitimate contact with another urgent request, that contains an attachment. The attachment downloads a virus or malware that allows the scammers to access everything on your phone -- and possibly even control it [source: FBI].

Now that you know what SMiShing is, click to the next page for tips on protecting yourself against it.