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How to spot scams and phishing attempts via SMS

Internet scams are everywhere. Indeed, we can be victims of scams that put our security and privacy at risk in different ways. In fact, we can receive an e-mail, for example, which is actually a phishing attack. Or, if we make a mistake, our data, and passwords could be stolen by simply sending an SMS. This is precisely what we are going to talk about in this article. We will explain how to detect if an SMS is a fraud and can put our security at risk.

Why do we receive fraudulent SMS?

The first thing we must take into account when analyzing why we are receiving this type of messages is that practically in the totality of occasions they are sent massively. That is to say, to a great amount of people at the same time. This is for statistical reasons. In fact, for the scammers, the more people they send the SMS to, the more likely it is that someone will fall for them.

In addition to this, most of the people who receive these messages do not know how to identify that they are false or that they are scam attempts. For this reason, in many occasions, they achieve their goal. In reality, what they are after is to get hold of our personal data. It can be to sell them or to impersonate our identity in some site, as we have already indicated above.

What to look for

We can be victims of many attacks by means of text messages on our cell phones. It must be taken into account that a few years ago it was possibly the most used means of communication in many cases. A way to send a short text to someone immediately. But nowadays, it is not very used by users. In fact, we really only receive SMS with verification codes, advertising and attempted attacks.

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If we make mistakes with this type of messages that are actually fraud, we can put our security at risk. Not only will it affect the mobile device in question. In fact, it could also manage to steal personal data and passwords. A problem that is aggravated when it also asks us to download some kind of data. All this makes it essential to know how to recognize when an SMS can be a scam. In this way we will be alert, and we will not make mistakes that can impact us. Sometimes it may actually look like a legitimate message. However, there will always be certain details that can help us to see that it is a scam.

It has a link (especially HTTP)

One of the most common tests is when it carries a link. Normally, it is through this link that the attack is carried out. It can be a Phishing attack. It is there where they pretend that we log in to a service. However, it can also be a link to download a malicious file.

It is important to bear in mind that HTTP links (those that are not encrypted) are the most dangerous. Attackers will usually use this type of link. However, you can also encounter a fake page that is encrypted. Therefore, although it is a warning sign, you should not rule out the possibility that an HTTPS link is insecure.

This link is shortened

But beyond the fact that a link arrives, it is very common to find shortened links. They use this strategy to prevent us from really seeing what the address is and click on it. We should always avoid entering links that are shortened. In addition, we can make use of tools that allow us to know what the real address is without having to open it.

A short link does not necessarily mean that it will be insecure. However, it is true that they are widely used by hackers. Ultimately, what they do is hide everything else. We do not really see the URL to which it will direct us. Therefore, it is easier for us to end up entering a page.

For example, if it is a supposed message from the bank, perhaps the domain is totally different and has nothing to do with that bank. If we see that domain like that, we are less likely to access it. On the other hand, if we receive a URL hidden in a shortened link, we are more likely to make the mistake of opening it.

It comes from a platform that we do not know

A clear sign of a scam is when we receive a message that supposedly comes from a platform that we do not use. We are talking for example about a courier company that we are not expecting. Also, an SMS from a bank that we have never had an account with, etc.

Hackers usually take advantage of the Christmas or summer campaigns to send SMS from courier companies such as Amazon. It is also common for them to try with the main banks in case we have an account and fall into the trap.

But beware, if you receive a message from a platform you know, it does not mean that it is safe. In fact, it is very common that they use the name or brand of very popular services. For example, banks or online shopping platforms. In this case, they want to have a higher probability of success and get the victim to click.

It is addressed in a generic way.

Another proof that it can be a fraud is when that SMS is addressed in a generic way. That is, it is when we find messages that say dear user and similar. They are not really addressed to the name of the person who receives it. Finally, this is a symptom that it may belong to a massive campaign.

It may happen that you think that the content of the message is totally irrelevant to us. Or you may think that there is no reason to have received it. Then it is most likely a fraudulent message. In the best case scenario, it could be an SMS sent by mistake that was addressed to someone else. However, whatever the case, we recommend that if you do not know the sender, simply delete it. This way you protect yourself from any risk.

However, phishing attacks are becoming more and more personal. Hackers are looking for more and more information about the victims. Therefore, they create links that are targeted with first and last names to increase the likelihood that we will click on them. You are more likely to click on a link that is addressed to your name. For example, indicating that an account you use has a problem and that you need to change something in the settings.

The latter is known as Spear Phishing. In this case, it would be addressed to a specific person, with name and possibly surname. Therefore, even if the SMS is in your name, you should verify that it is reliable. Hackers can collect information from victims in order to send more personalized messages and be successful.

Use alert messages

This type of messages that seek to deceive the victim usually contain warning messages. They tell us that our account is going to be suspended, that there has been an issue or similar. They seek to scare the victim. In this way, they will click on those links or carry out some action they ask for.

Undoubtedly, this is something very common among Phishing attacks. They tell us that something is wrong, that we must modify something in our account or carry out any step. Of course, all this as quickly as possible so that we do not have time to think and make mistakes. In this way, if they send it to many users at the same time, there may be someone clueless who falls into the trap. It is also possible that an elderly person might get nervous and think that they really need to do something as soon as possible to avoid having their account stolen. The worst thing is that it really is a trap.

The sender’s number has a very long length

In many occasions, we usually receive calls or SMS from long numbers. In addition, and these are typically from switchboards of companies such as electricity or telephone companies.

But we must take into account that this type of numbers often have a maximum of 10 digits. So, if we receive any SMS from a number that is longer than this, we should suspect that it is an attempt of scam. Since, in general, these numbers are typically generated internationally. Therefore, if we do not know the sender, it is best not to interact with the message.

Grammar is not the best

We can also look at the way the SMS is written. Typically, they regularly make grammatical errors, typing errors. They may even be translated from another language, etc. This is therefore another indication that the message we have received may be a scam and put our security at risk.

Whenever you see a message or any email of this type, you should run away. We must be very careful not to open links. In fact, it may be a scam that only seeks to collect data or steal passwords.

We are asked to log in or provide data

Usually these SMSes are intended to steal information and especially passwords. They are based on a phishing attack that seeks to gain the victim’s trust so that they log in or enter some kind of personal data. There is nothing fixed. Indeed, sometimes we will be taken to a page that pretends to be legitimate to log in. But sometimes we will be asked for a series of information.

In short, these are some fairly common signs that we are facing a fraudulent text message, which seeks nothing more than to steal our data and thus compromise privacy. It is something that we can find on our mobile on many occasions. They especially pretend to be legitimate companies, banks and other platforms that users might trust.

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