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Beware of Smishing: What You Need to Know About Text Scams

April 18, 2023
Doug Twining
Doug Twining

In January of 2023, scammers sent 14.3 billion spam texts.1 Estimated losses totaled $10 billion in 2021 alone.2 Unfortunately, many people don’t fully understand what text scams are and how to avoid them. These insights can help you protect yourself and your finances.

 

Beware of Smishing: What You Need to Know About Text Scams

 

What are text scams?

  • Text scams are fake text messages that try to steal your personal information, such as passwords, financial account numbers and Social Security numbers.
  • With even a few of these details, scammers can steal your identity and your money.
  • Text scams are also known as “smishing” — from SMS texting and email-based phishing scams.
  • Some smishing attacks deliver malware, which may let scammers spy on your online activity, steal information, or lock you out of accounts unless you pay a ransom.

 

Smishing warning signs

  • Requests for money or personal information
  • Spelling and grammar errors
  • Requests for urgent action
  • Odd or unfamiliar phone numbers or links
  • Messages from companies you don’t do business with or haven’t opted-in to receive texts from
  • Messages from government agencies, who rarely send unsolicited texts or request personal information via text or phone

 

How to spot 5 common text scams

Smishing takes many forms. These five are among the most common:

1. Missed delivery notification

Message may appear to come from UPS, FedEx or another familiar delivery service and says something like “your package is waiting” or “we could not deliver your package.”

Scam flags: You aren’t expecting a delivery; the phone number is too long or unusual; the link isn’t for the delivery service.

 

2. Message from a “friend”

Text appears to come from a friend, family member or someone else who appears to know you. The sender may say they’re having an emergency and need money or may ask you to meet. The text might include personal details from your social media profiles.

Scam flags: The phone number or name is unfamiliar; the person requests funds via a P2P account (like Venmo) or gift card; the wording isn’t what the real person would use.

 

3. Bank account closing alert

Message appears to come from a financial institution saying your account is locked or will be closed unless you act.

Scam flags: Text number isn’t your bank’s; you don’t have an account with the supposed sender; the message requests personal information.

Important: Hancock Whitney may call you for verification purposes, or send product or promotional offerings via email. But we will NEVER contact you and ask you for your Social Security number, personal identification number (PIN) or online banking login credentials.

 

4. Debit or credit card locked alert

The text asks you to verify details or take other actions to unblock your account. It may show your actual account number.

Scam flags: The message tells you to pay a fee; the link doesn’t match your card provider’s website.

 

5. IRS or other government notification

The message threatens you with fines or arrest, says you owe taxes or even claims you’re eligible to receive funds.

Spam flags: Government agencies almost never send unsolicited texts or ask for personal information via a text or phone call.

 

How to protect yourself from smishing

Don’t …

  • Reply to the text (don’t even say “stop”). Don’t click links, open or download attachments, or call a phone number in the message. Just receiving a scam text won’t cause problems.
  • Share personal information if you have any concerns about whether the text is legitimate.
  • List your phone number or other personal information on social media.

 

Do …

  • Contact the company or person directly using contact information you already have, not what’s in the message.
  • Block the number and delete the message.
  • Use multi-factor authentication when offered and keep security applications updated.
  • Uninstall apps you don’t recognize.
  • Review your mobile phone bill, financial accounts and credit report regularly to watch for irregularities.

 

Helpful resources

To report text scams and learn what to do if you’ve replied to a smishing text, visit the Federal Trade Commission and IdentityTheft.gov. You can also find tips and tools at the Hancock Whitney online Security Center.

Your security is our highest priority

Our information security team works around the clock to keep your personal financial information safe. We’re dedicated to being your trusted financial partner and working with you to stay vigilant against criminals and fraudsters. That’s why we regularly provide you with advice and guidance to keep your assets secure through articles such as this one in our Insights blog.

Visit our Security Center for more information and tips about how to spot suspicious activity, protect your identity, and keep your information safe online.

If you believe that you may have replied to a smishing text, or if you suspect your Hancock Whitney accounts could have been compromised due to a text scam, please call us at 1-800-448-8812 immediately.

 

1 “2023 United States Robotext Trends,” RoboKiller, https://www.robokiller.com/spam-text-insights, accessed Feb. 15, 2023

2 “The RoboKiller Report: 2021 Phone Scam Insights,” RoboKiller, https://assets-global.website-files.com/625442b4613eaa38d6514c11/62712673a07d65fd78c3ca50_robokiller_yearly_phone_report_2021.pdf, accessed Feb. 13, 2023

 

Other Sources

“11 Facts + Stats on Smishing (SMS Phishing) in 2023,” Ben Martens, Safety Detectives, https://www.safetydetectives.com/blog/what-is-smishing-sms-phishing-facts/, accessed Feb. 14, 2023

 

“17 Spam Text Statistics & Spam Text Examples,” SlickText, updated Feb. 3, 2023, https://www.slicktext.com/blog/2022/10/17-spam-text-statisitics-for-2022/, accessed Feb. 14, 2023

 

“How to Recognize and Report Spam Text Messages,” Federal Trade Commission, https://consumer.ftc.gov/articles/how-recognize-and-report-spam-text-messages, accessed Feb. 14, 2023

 

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