Spam! Smish! Spoof! FCC Wants to Block Spam Text Messages
Posted November 09, 2021
Written by John Shea III, Xpanxion Technical Writer
Coming Soon in a Text Message Sent to You
Spam! Smish! Spoof! are not the action sound effects you’d find in a comic book fight, but instead the latest words in the fight on robotexting!
Deriving its name from a Monty Python Viking sketch, Spam has been with us since May of 1978 when the first email spam was sent. It didn’t take long to catch on for hackers and marketing scammers. Then came the infamous and ubiquitous robo-phone calls, and now it’s in our text messaging. Robotexting is another name for the text messaging spam. Smish is a mash-up with Short Messaging Service (SMS) and “phishing” a word we’ve come to fear in cybersecurity terms. SMS Spoofing (would that be “smoofing”?) is a hacking trick of sending a text message with someone else’s phone number or sender ID.
According to an August report in RoboKiller, spam texts are up 55% more than the year before. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) received about 14,000 complaints in 2020, up 146% from 2019. As of mid-October, the FCC has received 10,000 complaints.
The FCC wants to do something about those complaints. On Monday, Oct. 18th, Jessica Rosenworcel, Acting Chair of the FCC, says that it’s time to take steps to confront the latest wave of fraud. The FCC wants to identify how mobile carriers can block robotexting before any harm is caused. If the rules are adopted by the full Commission, then the FCC would explore ways to protect the consumer from the illegal robotexts. That includes network level blocking and also applying caller ID standards to text message. You can download a complete copy of Chairwoman Rosenworcel’s statement as a Word file, PDF, or txt file.
Spam! Spam! Spam!
What sort of spam text scams are out there now?
Some are COVID-19 related, saying your vaccination appointment is ready, and you know you didn’t make an appointment. Or to request you upload a photo of your vaccination card as proof of vaccination or whatever. Some offer testing; some offer bogus cures. Some want insurance info, money, or both.
The FCC has web pages devoted to this type of COVID-19-related scam and others like the following:
- Smishing scams deal with bank fraud or try to get you to download malware.
- Package delivery scams want you to pay unnecessary customs fees.
- The one-ring phone scam is where you’re asked to call back an international number and get charged exorbitant rates per minute.
Use Caution to be Protected
How can you be safe from robotext scams?
- Don’t answer them, even like replying STOP, unless you know they are from a reputable source. And be careful about reputable sources because someone might be spoofing a familiar number.
- Don’t click on any suspicious links in the text message.
- Beware of poor spelling, grammar, lots of capital letters and too much punctuation.
- Look out for generic greetings. Legitimate entities will address you by your full name or user name.
- Verify phone numbers.
- Remain skeptical.
- Don’t let emotions get the better of you. Phishing pushes a sense of urgency.
- Government entities like the IRS or Social Security will not phone asking you for payment.
- Smishing usually comes with malware attached. Use extreme caution whenever you receive a random attachment along with the text message.
Other tips to avoid scams (and there are plenty out there) are on the FCC’s web pages.
How Can Xpanxion Help You?
Xpanxion can help you be safe for cybersecurity. Our team of experts will assist you and your company in detecting fraud and avoiding phishing scams. However, scammers are trying new ways all the time to trick you. Don’t be a victim. Be Vigilant!
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