Communication: “Smishing” scam: more masses of fraudulent SMS on mobile phones

“Smishing” scam: more and more fraudulent SMS on mobile phones

A woman holds a smartphone in her hand with a scam text message on the display. Photo: Wolf von Dewitz/dpa

© dpa-infocom GmbH

Anyone who receives an SMS from an unknown person with a link should be careful. Because it could be a fraud SMS. The “smishing” wave reached Europe at the end of 2020 – and is still not over.

Fraud SMS with the “smishing” scam remain a serious problem. Last year, Deutsche Telekom informed around 30,000 customers that their devices were affected by smishing attacks, as the Bonn-based group announced on request.

The customer devices would have sent thousands of SMS and thus further distributed malware in a snowball system. “In total, their smartphones have sent almost 100 million smishing SMS – just via our network,” said a company spokesman.

According to the company, Vodafone affected an almost five-digit number of customers in Germany in the second half of 2021. Telefónica (o2) did not provide any figures.

With “Smishing” – a neologism of SMS and phishing – you get an SMS with a link. It is pointed out, for example, to an alleged package that is coming soon. If you click on the link in the text message, you will be directed to dubious websites where you are supposed to download apps – often for the alleged package tracking. In fact, however, it is malware that triggers the SMS mass sending to all contacts and other numbers stored in the cell phone. This is only possible with mobile phones with the Android operating system; software downloads from unknown sources do not work with Apple.

In another scam, an alleged sweepstakes success is reported – only the entry of personal data is still missing to win. Anyone who falls for it will by no means become a winner – instead, their data will be used for criminal purposes. Scammers often target bank details.

As reported from the telecommunications industry, SMS messages are particularly common at the moment, in which the recipient is referred to a video on which he can be seen. This should make you curious and careless. This is also a scam to smuggle malware onto the smartphone or to siphon data.

“Smishing” became a serious problem in Europe at the end of 2020. The figures from Telekom now make it clear that the mass fraud is far from abating – many consumers are still falling for the scam.

The mobile network operators have taken countermeasures. They use filters to try to prevent the SMS from being sent. “We can use our anomaly and fraud detection systems to see if devices are still actively spreading malware,” reports the Telekom spokesman. In order to prevent mass mailings, the network operators temporarily block the SMS sending function on infected cell phones.

If you don’t have an SMS flat rate, it can get expensive. The Telekom spokesman reports that additional costs will be reimbursed once as a gesture of goodwill. Unfortunately, there are cases in which smartphones are infected several times in a row. “This can be expensive in individual cases,” said the spokesman.

And what helps against the “smishing” plague? First of all, don’t click on it and certainly don’t install anything. If this has happened, the phone needs to be reset to factory settings. Telefónica also recommends installing antivirus programs to improve the protection of the end device.


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