Phishing and Smishing describes the use of email and text messaging to coerce individuals into providing personal information. Phishing refers to the use of emails, and smishing refers to the use of texts. In both scenarios what appears to be a reputable company is actually a fraudster attempting to obtain sensitive personal information. Commonly requested sensitive information includes passwords, account numbers, debit or credit card numbers, social security numbers, or answers to security questions. By extracting these details from their victims, they ultimately hope to gain access to your email, bank accounts, credit lines, and other financially attractive aspects of your life.
Scammers launch thousands of attacks like these every day, and they’re often successful. The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center reports that individuals lose $30 million to phishing schemes annually. * Don’t be one of these statistics. Protect yourself by watching for the signs detailed below.
Phishing emails and smishing text messages will look like they’re from a company you know and trust. Make sure the logos, font colors, names, spellings, website address, and phone numbers are identical to those found on their website. Before you click on anything, compare the message branding with their company website. If they don’t match, the sender of the email or text is a scam artist trying to trick you. Immediately delete the email or text and do not respond or click on any links.
Phishing emails and smishing text messages often tell a story to trick you into clicking on a link or opening an attachment. Common tactics include language such as…
- - We’ve noticed some suspicious activity or log-in attempts on your account -
- - There’s a problem with your account or your payment information -
- - Please confirm the following information -
- - Attached is your invoice (when you didn’t buy anything) -
- - Click here to make a payment -
- - Complete this information to claim you tax refund, sweepstakes winnings, prize, etc. -
All of these are clever attempts to encourage you to respond quickly without thinking about who may be on the other end of the communication. If you need to confirm a payment, account number, or invoice, contact the company directly by visiting in person or initiating a phone call to their main phone number found on your original invoice or on their company website. If anything feels suspicious or out of place, always proceed cautiously and slowly.