ODU expert warns smartphone users of “smishing”

NORFOLK, Va. – A simple text reply could put vital personal information into the hands of internet-based criminals.

Hongyi “Michael” Wu, the Director of Old Dominion University's Center for Cybersecurity Education and Research, is warning smartphone users of a rising  “dangerous scam technique” called “smishing”.

It's similar to phishing emails but they are sent via text.

The messages usually include a phone number or weblink.

”The goal is to direct the victim to call the criminal or to visit their malicious website," Wu said. "So when you click the link, you download the malware and it will compromise your mobile phone.”

Criminals send them to trick targets into replying with personal information like passwords and credit card numbers.

Wu said “smishing” has been around since 2008 but as the number of smartphone users increase so does "smishing".

"Most people trust text messages more than emails. Smishing messages often prey on people's sense of urgency," Wu said in a recent press release. "We often presume text messages come from our friends and trusted companies."

He also mentioned that urgency makes people more vulnerable than they might be to phishing emails sent to a computer.

“Most people trust SMS text messages more than emails. We tend to presume the SMS-text message always come from our family or friends or trusted companies. We tend to skim through the message and take quick questions, that makes it easier for us to make mistakes,” he said.

How to avoid becoming a victim?

Wu said follow the small practices you would with other cyber scams like verify texts from bank or credit card companies and avoid messages from unknown senders.

Wu told News 3 there is no way to block smishing messages.