Does that random text seem too good to be true? What you need to know to protect yourself from Smishing

Does that random text seem too good to be true? What you need to know to protect yourself from Smishing


Smishing sure doesn’t sound like a scary word, but the trend it describes, SMS phishing, has become a real and growing threat for wireless users across Saskatchewan.

The term refers to text message scams used by cyber criminals to lure people into divulging their passwords, personal details, or credit card information which scammers in turn use to commit financial fraud or identify theft.

As recently as last fall, a SMS phishing scam made the rounds targeting SaskTel customers by telling them they’d been overbilled due to a billing error. The message claimed to be from SaskTel and asked customers to click on a link in order to reveal their refund amount or to receive the alleged funds by direct deposit. This particular scam link went to an Interac phishing landing page which, in order to receive the refund, the customer had to provide personal information, such as name, address, SIN, banking and credit card information.

SaskTel understands the frustration these scam texts are causing wireless customers. These scams are not just annoying, but they are growing drastically in frequency and sophistication around the world.

“There certainly has been an increase in phishing over SMS,” said Richard Wanner, SaskTel Client Technology Manager – Security. “Spam over SMS has been around for a good long time, but phishing, until the last couple of years, was mostly limited to email. In the last year or so the smishing attacks have been getting more complex, and more targeted.”

Last year’s attack on SaskTel users, for instance, was aimed specifically at Saskatchewan wireless numbers. Scammers use many different methods to obtain blocks of numbers, whether it’s by accessing online phone books or by utilizing legitimate services to send bulk text messages.

“I think the reason these attacks have moved to the mobile realm is because email providers and security companies have gotten better and better at detecting and blocking phishing attacks,” he said. “The same level of security doesn't yet exist in the mobile device realm.”

Much like scam phone calls, many of these messages don’t originate in Canada or cannot be identified where they are coming from. But, we can all play a role in informing friends and family about what to look for if they receive a suspicious text message. Anyone can be phished, so it’s safe to reason that even the most tech-savvy among us should know some techniques in order to avoid becoming a victim.

If a scam message pops up on your phone, here are some basic tips:

  • Never respond to a sender or number that you don’t recognize. Responding alerts the scammer that your phone number is genuine and can open yourself up to further attacks.
  • Never send money or share private information with unverified sources.
  • Watch out for messages that are poorly written with many grammatical and spelling errors.
  • Beware of texts requiring “immediate action” in order to prevent a service shut down.

As with any type of phishing, awareness and safe browsing practices are key. Even if you get a text message from a friend or trusted source containing a link, consider verifying they meant to send the link before clicking on it. SaskTel will never ask for personal details or refund money through a text message.  

In general, if you get a message that appears suspicious the best thing to do is simply delete the message. If for some reason the link has been pressed, you should take steps immediately to change the passwords on your device. You can also report incidents by emailing complaint.abuse@sasktel.net.

Unfortunately, these scams are nearly impossible to stop and will likely continue to be a reality for some time to come. But until new technologies arise to help counter this annoying and sometimes costly problem, your first and best line of defense is being aware.



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