National Consumers League

Fraudulent Text Messages? Just Delete 'em!


By John Breyault

When faced with spam text messages -- also known as SMiShing – just delete the messages. That was the advice we gave to Nashville’s CBS Newschannel 5 in a story that ran on the issue earlier this week.  Click here to watch the full video.

While the estimated 1.5 billion spam text messages that will be sent in 2008 represent only a small fraction of the total amount of spam consumers receive, the problem is growing. Since 2006, the number of spam text messages sent has nearly doubled, likely driven by dramatic growth in text messaging use by American consumers. Even though most mobile phone consumers will receive very much, if any, text messaging spam, the cost of getting even a few is not insignificant. Given that U.S. consumers pay for text messages sent and received, combined with rising pay-as-you-go text messaging fees (currently at 20¢ per message on most carriers), the real costs of such spam can quickly add up.

The easiest way to avoid becoming a victim of SMiShing scams is to simply delete the messages. Do not call the number listed in the text message or surf to the Web address provided. You will likely be asked to provide sensitive financial information (bank or credit card account numbers) which the scammers will then use to defraud you. In particular, SMiShing scams seem to be targeting credit union, so be especially wary if you are one of their customers and receive these text messages. Other ways to cut down on SMiShing is to avoid listing cell phone numbers online (such as in online social networking site profiles), since scammers frequently use sophisticated harvesting software to comb the Internet for such numbers. If the problem is especially severe, cell phone carriers can block all SMS text messages to a consumer’s handset, though this will also block legitimate messages.

Consumers who suspect they’ve been a victim of SMiShing fraud should contact their financial institution and cell phone provider immediately. Also consider reporting the fraud to NCL's Fraud Center, so that we can alert the FTC and federal and state law enforcement authorities.