Australians are being inundated by a new form of scam whereby victims are sent text messages asking for them to share personal details which are then on-sold.
Known as “smishing” – or sms phishing – the scam involves cyber criminals impersonating legitimate organisations such as banks or delivery companies and request mobile phone users to click a link.
Figures from the ACCC’s Scamwatch show that in just one month smishing scams have increased by more than 20 per cent, leading experts to worry that incidences of identity theft are about to spike.
“The latest figures from the ACCC are consistent with a wider global trend that text messages are becoming one of the most preferred ways for cybercriminals to target victims,” Crispin Kerr, ANZ area vice-president of cybersecurity agency Proofpoint, said.
“These types of attacks are commonly referred to as ‘smishing’.
“In smishing texts, scammers will often use fake branding of an organisation such as a company logo, combined with a sense of urgency and usually some form of request for the target to click on a malicious link contained within the text.”
Mr Kerr said the difficulty of containing SMS scams is that Australians are more likely to trust a link in a text message than they would in an email.
“With virtually all Australian adults owning a mobile phone, this makes this channel of communication ideal for cybercriminals to steal personal information and commit further crimes like identity fraud,” Mr Kerr said.
“Many businesses are also using mobile messaging more to communicate with their consumers who are more trusting of text messages than email for example, and therefore more likely to click on malicious links within texts.”
Figures from the ACCC show that Australians lost more than half a million dollars to unexpected prize and lottery scams, the highest amount recorded in more than 12 months.
In sheer dollar terms, investment scams are the most damaging with Australians fleeced an eye-watering $8 million in one month alone.
Mr Kerr said any Australians worried about becoming the victim of a scam should be suspicious of communications that sound too good to be true.
“Australians should continue to exercise caution,” Mr Kerr recommends.
“The best thing to do if you think you may have been contacted by a scammer is to refrain from clicking on any links and report the scam to the ACCC’s Scamwatch service immediately. Only communicate with an organisation through official channels that are typically listed on their company website and never give out your personal information to an unsolicited source.
“By knowing these simple safe practices and what to look out for, you can help to prevent financial losses for yourself, your business and loved ones.”