What is Smishing and Why Was it Added to the Dictionary

June 5, 2017

How often do you text or talk on the phone? If you're like most people, you rely on texting for a majority of your communications on a daily basis. As of 2013, Nielsen found that we use texting the most as a communication tool, with over 18 billion texts sent daily around the world. While some may argue that texting erodes our literacy, researchers suggest we are becoming bilingual.

Jane Solomon, senior content editor for Dictionary.com, noted to Digital Trends that language evolves, despite the push-back from older generations. The additions to our digital lexicon signal a shift in the way we communicate - and what threats we face. We began using the word 'phishing' to describe the scams sent via email as the service rose in popularity. Now, with the rise of texting, also known as short message service or SMS, we now have a new term: smishing. And, it's been included in the 2017 Oxford Dictionary.

What is smishing?

Smishing is a noun describing the action of sending text messages with malicious links to gather personal information. It can extend to convincing individuals to reveal personal data, like credit card information or SSN as well.

Smishing brings additional concerns over traditional email scams. We rely on our mobile devices to alert us about our bank account, our online shopping order and our social media profile. In addition, we typically use our phones while doing other activities.

"Since everywhere we go we carry mobile devices with us and are usually doing three or four separate things while we are holding our phones, [criminals] are counting on you being distracted," observed Adam Levin to The Morning Call.

As we continue to rely on our smartphones to make plans and conduct business, the number of smishing scams has increased. The BBC noted that these scams rely on social engineering – or your trust of your social network - to gain access to your information.

"They play on your trust and they use a front, whether it's a bank, a friend's name, or someone you expect communications from, and they put urgency on you to try and worry victims into responding," noted cybersecurity consultant Jessica Barker to the BBC.

How can you protect your phone?

Levin suggested remaining cautious when logging onto an open Wi-Fi network. When traveling, avoid open networks in coffee shops or airports. However, that's not always feasible. You can seek closed networks that require password logins. This minimizes the number of people that have access to the network - along with your personal information. If you must use an open network, stay away from sites that require inputting sensitive information, like your banking website.

In addition, he advised protecting your cellphone number. Refrain from posting it on your social media profile - and pause before clicking on links sent to you via text message. Some anti-virus software can catch malware - but once it infects your phone, you may have to revert to the factory settings to remove it.

When striving to protect your identity, it's helpful to have a partner to help you monitor your credit files and personal information. That's where Identity Guard can help. By leveraging IBM Watson technology, Identity Guard is always working to provide you with powerful identity protect for you and your family.

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