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How to Spot and Avoid SMS Spoofing Scams


SMS spoofing explained


In today's world, SMS is widely used by many businesses and individuals. However, the way every technology is vulnerable in some way or another; SMS is also prone to various security threats, one of which is SMS spoofing.


In this blog, we will understand the following things around SMS spoofing in detail.





What is SMS spoofing?

 

You might have received a text message that seemed to come from your bank or a friend that you found suspicious. This is the case of SMS spoofing.


To explain this in simple language, imagine text messages are like envelopes. Typically, the envelope shows who sent it (your bank, friend, etc.).  With spoofing, scammers can fake the envelope's return address to trick you into opening it.  This fake address could look like a real bank number, a friend's phone number, or even a random number to seem mysterious.


SMS spoofing is a practice where the sender alters their Sender ID on text messages so that the message appears to be coming from a different number or name familiar to the receiver. Here, the sender can change their IDs, phone numbers, or both.


It is usually done to do fraud with other people. Apart from this, many businesses use this technique to run campaigns, but instead of using phone numbers, they use their company’s name.


Here are a few examples of how scammers use SMS spoofing:



  1. Your account has been blocked due to suspicious activity. Reply with your PIN to verify your identity.

  2. Congrats! You've won a free subscription to [Popular Streaming Service]! Click here to claim your prize: [Suspicious Link].

  3. Urgent delivery update! Your package requires additional information for processing. Track it now: [Malicious Link]

  4. Hey Alex, I'm stuck in trouble and my phone is dead. Can you send me some money to [Number]? I'll pay you back ASAP!

  5. You've been randomly selected to win a new phone! Visit our website to claim your prize: [Fake Website Link]




How does SMS spoofing work?


Spoofing is done by altering the sender’s name or mobile number so the message appears from a familiar person or company on the receiver's phone. Various spoofing mobile applications are used to do this. Spoofing can be done for valid reasons, like a bank displaying their name instead of the phone number they use.


However, it is also done to scam people. Scammers use a brand name or the name of the person you know to carry out mobile scams. Spoofing is carried out in various ways, such as SMS spoofing, Email Spoofing, Website Spoofing, and caller ID spoofing. This can be done to scam a person or a group of people. You cannot block or reply to spoof text.




Six types of Spoofing SMS Messages


  1. Fake Sender ID

  2. Spam messages

  3. Fake Money Transfer

  4. Corporate espionage

  5. Identity theft

  6. Harassment


Let us understand each of them in detail:



01. Fake Sender ID

 

This is the most common type of SMS spoofing, wherein the sender will mask his identity with a trusted business like a bank, Insurance company, or credit card service provider.


This can also be done by using the name of someone from your contact list. Due to this, the chances of you clicking the provided link are very high.


Your debit card has been blocked due to suspicious activities. Please open the link [LINK] to unblock it.



02. Unsolicited bulk messages

 

Sometimes, like spam email, we can get spam SMS. This message could appear as a promotional SMS or contain any other topic that scammers use to direct you to the wrong link.


It can contain misspellings. Many people might receive the text, but the scammers hope for a few to click on the link in the message.


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03. Fake Money Transfer


This is a type of SMS spoofing where the scammer will send a message to you saying that you have won the lottery or prize money and ask for the bank details to transfer that money. In other cases, They will send cash transaction messages pretending to be banks or financial institutions.


🎉 Congrats! You've won the Lootry Jackpot! 🎉 Claim your $1,000,000 prize & luxury vacation here: [Link]. Enter your details for verification.



04. Corporate espionage


This type of SMS spoofing is done by targeting employees of a particular company. This is done to collect customer data or gain large amounts of money over the company’s information.


Your system is updated. You can access the system by updating the password. Click here on the [LINK] to proceed further.



05. Identity theft


This type of spoofing is where the scammer wants to get all your personal information so that they can pretend to be you and access your bank account to steal money.


Your life insurance needs to be renewed. Click here to update your account.



06. Harassment

 

Scammers use this form of SMS spoofing to send threatening messages to people. They do this to get money from the recipient and threaten people with consequences if the money isn’t paid.


Sometimes, they also send messages to scare people, saying their relatives are in an emergency and need help. This trick is used to get money from people quickly.


Your friend met with an accident. Please send money to help.




How do you detect SMS spoofing?


Here are seven ways to identify spoof SMS:


If you received a text from a suspicious sender name/number


When you receive a suspicious SMS containing a long phone number or different from the contact number you have already saved, this can be a spoof text. Another sign of spoof text would be that the sender's spelling can be incorrect.



If the text has spelling and grammar mistakes


The second way of identifying the spoof message is by checking the content of the message. If the message has many spelling mistakes or incorrect grammar, it can be a spoof message as companies or businesses care about their reputation and won't make such mistakes.


The scammer can also misspell a few words on purpose to avoid going into the spam folder or not being familiar with the language.



If the text has Urgency in the content


A spoof SMS will mostly have a sense of urgency in the text, so people will click on the link without thinking through it.



If the text is too good to be true offers


The scammer will text to lure the receiver to open the SMS. These SMS will contain information about you winning a lottery or prize money.



If the text has suspicious links


Spoof texts will have too long or short links or contain suspicious characters. The format of the links is also different than normal ones.




If the text requests for personal information


Businesses or brands won't ask you to fill in personal information over SMS. If you receive an SMS that requests you to share sensitive information, then there is a high probability of it being a spoof SMS.



If the text has suspicious requests


If an SMS requests you to reset your password or pay for something you were not expecting, this can be spoofed text.




How do scammers get your phone number?


Scammers get your phone number in the following ways:


Buying phone numbers on Dark Web


Scammers buy millions of phone numbers on the dark web, which is not expensive. The price for basic personal details of an American, including his phone number, is just $8.



Using a Number Generator to dial random numbers


The common method scammers use is with the help of the auto-dialer, which generates and calls random phone numbers.



Gather phone numbers from Social media platforms


Phone numbers are spread across many social media platforms, websites, and phone directories around the Internet, which these scammers can easily access.


Now, let's understand how to protect ourselves from these scammers.




How to avoid SMS spoofing scams?


We have all encountered the spoof SMS once, and there is a high chance that we will also receive it in the future. For this, we must be able to identify spoof text and take measures to prevent it to protect our personal information or money from scammers.


Here are a few tips to avoid getting scammed.



Examine the Sender’s details


You should always check the phone number or name of the sender. Scammers always try to trick less attentive people. Therefore, checking the number of digits in the contact number or the sender's spelling is important if you find the received message is fishy.



Don’t Click on Suspicious SMS Links


If you detect something strange about the SMS, the brand, or the business sent, it is important to contact them from the number available on its website rather than from where you received the text. It is important to remember that no company will ask for sensitive information via SMS.



Avoid Replying to Texts that Have Strange Urgency


Scammers often use the element of urgency to make you do things as per their will.  This is because recipients will detect something fishy if they take their time. Always be suspicious of such text messages that tell you to take immediate action.



Check for Encryption Before Entering a Link


You should always check if the link you received is HTTP or HTTPS. Avoid clicking on the link with only HTTP, as this is an Unencrypted URL. You can check the link before using it by various URL scanning tools that are available online.



Never reset your password via the link available on SMS


Don’t reset the password using the link in the SMS, as your banks and other organizations won’t ask you to do this via text message. It's better to use the company’s website or app to reset it.



Enable spam filters


Use your phone’s spam filters or install spam-blocking apps to stop spam texts.



Don’t respond instantly


If you get an SMS requiring urgent attention, don’t do something immediately; wait and confirm whether it’s correct information, then proceed.




Conclusion


SMS spoofing poses a significant threat in today's digital age. By understanding the workings of SMS spoofing, recognizing its types, and taking preventive measures, we can significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to these scams. Always verify information, avoid clicking suspicious links, and trust your instincts when encountering unexpected messages. Together, we can create a safer digital environment by staying informed about such cyber threats.

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