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Smishing is the new phishing: Experts warn of spike in text-based scams

Smishing is becoming the new phishing when it comes to scams.

Instead of sending emails, hackers are increasingly using text messages to reach potential victims, experts warn. SMiShing is named after Short Message Service – the technology that enables text messaging.

AARP Hawaii has recently received text messages from what appears to be a smishing scam. The texts look like error messages and contain links. One message asks you to click on a link.

Experts warn not to click on links in messages like this.

One clue that this is a scam is that the number is shortened – nine digits instead of the usual 10. That's a sign that the message is an email sent to a phone. The numbers change each time a message is sent, making it difficult to block.

Smishing has been around for a while, but experts have notices an increase in recent weeks.

Scammers appear to be turning to text messages because people are ignoring emails and people tend read and respond to text messages quickly. Most text messages are opened within minutes of receiving them.

To fight back against smishing, here are some tips from AARP fraud expert Sid Kirchheimer:

  • Don't reply to text messages from senders you don't recognize. Even sending a "remove," "stop" or "opt-out" response tells SMS senders that your mobile number is active and ripe for more messages. Be especially wary of texts from a 5000 or other shortened number (versus a complete 10-digit phone number), indicating the message is actually an email sent to a phone.
  • Never reply to text messages asking you to confirm or provide personal or financial information. Legitimate companies don't text requests for account numbers, log-in details and other sensitive data. Government agencies don't correspond by text (and are unlikely to even have your mobile phone number).
  • Slow down. Most people instinctively deal with text messages ASAP, and smishing scams work best when creating a false sense of urgency. Rather than call back numbers provided in text messages (doing so is another tip-off of your working cell number), take a few minutes to verify the actual contact numbers of legitimate businesses that may need to contact you.
  • Forward suspicious text messages to short code 7726 (which spells "SPAM" on your keypad), which allows cellphone carriers to identify and block smishing messages.
  • Be stingy with your cellphone number. Don't post it online or on social media, or provide it for contests, surveys, touted "deals" or "free trials."
Click here for more information.

To learn more abut fighting smishing and other scams, AARP and partner organizations are putting on Scam Jam events on Oahu, Maui, Kauai, Kona and Hilo in August.

Susan Arthur, the FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) Investor Education Foundation is the featured speaker. Other partners include the Better Business Bureau of Hawai‘i and the Hawai‘i Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs Office of the Securities Commissioner.

The locations, dates and times are listed below:

Wednesday, August 9 - Waipahu

9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Hawai‘i United Okinawa Center

94-587 Ukee Street

Wednesday, August 9 -- Wailuku

5:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

J. Walter Cameron Center Auditorium

95 Mahalani Street

Thursday, August 10 -- Kapaa

9:30 a.m. to noon

Courtyard Marriott Kauai at Coconut Beach Paddle Room

650 Aleka Loop

Friday, August 11 - Honolulu

9:30 a.m. to Noon

Japanese Cultural Center, Manoa Grand Ballroom

2454 S. Beretania Street

Saturday, August 12 - Hilo

9 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.

Church of the Holy Cross

440 W. Lanikaula Street

Saturday, August 12 - Kona

5:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

West Hawai‘i Civic Center – Council Chambers

74-5044 Ane Keohokalole Highway


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