Verified SMS

SMS Spoofing: What is it and how can you prevent it?

SMS Spoofing: What is it and how can you prevent it?
By Harish Thyagarajan . 08 Jul 2020 . image 7 mins read

The increase in smartphone usage and the advancements in technology have transformed how businesses use SMS to interact with their customers. The humble text message offers a wealth of opportunity, from sending marketing messages like promo codes, to providing some essential service notifications, such as appointment reminders or delivery updates. 

Over the years, SMS has become the most preferred communication channel for customers. On average, SMS open-rates are as high as 98% compared to email open-rates, which is just 20%. In comparison with phone call response-rates, SMS response rates are 295% higher.

Although the scope of SMS messaging is massive, there have also been some serious concerns about its security and privacy. 

SMS phishing and spoofing are on the rise, and scammers are coming up with new ways to target businesses and consumers alike. Mobile network operators are finding it extremely difficult to detect and control this constantly evolving flood of spam messages. SMS spoofing is a recent development, which is evolving with the growth of cellular networks worldwide.

What is SMS spoofing? 

SMS spoofing is an activity where people modify the message sender ID to an alphanumeric text of their choice. In simple words, spoofing an SMS message can completely change some vital information such as the sender’s name, contact number, or even both.

It is commonly used to trick a message recipient into thinking that the message is from a legitimate source. Scammers often try to get you to click a link or respond to them, mostly for phishing or other malicious purposes.

In terms of legality, it is still in the grey area. Even though spoofing sounds malicious in concept, there are many legitimate reasons why SMS messages can be spoofed.  

For instance, if a business plans to change its sender ID from a random phone number to its brand name, it would be a legitimate use of SMS spoofing. This is especially the case for companies executing SMS campaigns where they need to use their brand name instead of a phone number.

Nevertheless, spoofing can also be used to conduct fraudulent activities as it masks the sender ID and replaces it with an identity the scammer is trying to imitate. As a result, many scammers try to phish for personal and confidential information from mobile users, such as their bank account details or credit card numbers.

Two common ways SMS spoofing is misused

Spoofing has become a trick used by hackers and scammers to deceive users with fake displayed sender information.  Here are some ways scammers misuse SMS spoofing.

Faking brand names

Scammers send text messages that pretend to be from a well-known brand. For instance, a scammer can change the sender’s name to Vodafone and send a bulk message to users stating that their payment is due. Not all users will believe this, but what about those customers whose mobile payment is due? If they see this SMS, they are highly likely to respond to it, and that is exactly what scammers want. 

Fake money transfers

Another common scam involves con artists using the spoofing technique at offline retail stores. For example, scammers visit a store and pick various expensive items, and when it is their turn to make the payment, they ask for the store owner’s bank details so that they can transfer the money online. Now, if the fraudster knows the store owner’s registered mobile number on which the bank sends SMS updates, they can access an SMS spoofing site and use it to send a message that appears to come from the bank, as it would contain the store’s account number, the amount transferred and the transaction date. As a result, the store owner is tricked into believing that the buyer has made the payment.

Practical ways to protect yourself from SMS spoofing

No one can be completely safe from spoofing. If an SMS message seems suspicious or if you have any doubts about the source of the message, you should always report it to your network provider, who can then track where the message came from. 

Here are some more ways to minimize your chances of becoming a victim of SMS spoofing:

  •  Do not share your login credentials or financial details over SMS. Remember that government companies, banks, and other legitimate brands never ask for personal or financial information.
  • Do not click on website links sent via SMS or respond to text messages from numbers that you don’t recognize. Let’s assume that you receive a text message from an airline company notifying you that your flight has been canceled. In case you are unsure about the authenticity of the SMS, do not click the link provided to take any action. Instead, call the airline to check the flight status and reschedule if necessary.

Verified SMS – Google’s attempt to strengthen user privacy

Google has taken some measures to strengthen user privacy and security with Verified SMS – a new feature for android messaging apps. Through Verified SMS, Google aims to combat the rise of spam texts. Similar to how the verified badges on social media platforms indicate a business page’s trustworthiness, vSMS brings the same verification to messaging. 

Businesses can now display their brand name and logo along with a verified badge when sending SMS to users. As a result, companies can deepen relationships with their end-user and boost engagement for their messaging campaigns.

Although such preventive measures are in place, none of these steps will put an end to spam texts. Scammers will always find other ways to reach you. Therefore, the best protection against these attacks is to do nothing at all. As long as you don’t respond, scammers cannot do much. 

We would love to hear your thoughts and queries!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *