We all know how annoying those spam phone calls from those long numbers are… you know, those calls that you answer and the "customer service rep" offers you a new cellphone contract, or even worse, those "robots" that greet with an over-cheerful "Good day!"

By now, we've figured out that those are scam phone calls, right? There are a vishing attack to get you to share your details with a stranger.

Let's not forget about those spam SMSs! Smishing is just as annoying. While it may be easier to avoid those – you could simply ignore the SMS or delete it right away, some vulnerable recipients may be tempted to click on links in the SMS. This is not a good idea because these links often lead to fake websites which prompt you to share personal details or download a virus onto your phone. Replying to the SMS with important details also just opens the door for fraudsters to attack you.

The best way to counter a smishing attack is to know what to look for and follow a few easy steps to protect yourself.

What does a smishing attack look like?

It can be hard to identify an SMS scam because these messages look very real. How they're written and addressed to you is very professional, so you're more likely to give in to the fraudster's demands. This is called social engineering. Look out for these signs:

  1. Strange phone numbers

    We know what a typical cellphone number looks like. They are 10 digits long and start with a 0 or +27. So, beware of texts from unusually long numbers. The same goes for phone calls from odd numbers.
  1. Refund scams

    Texts from a 'government organisation' or satellite TV service claiming that they owe you money is without a doubt a scam. These texts explain that you were overcharged for a service and that you're due for a refund. You’ll be asked to send a text to a number to claim your 'refund'. Do NOT fall for it!
  1. "Congratulations!"

    "You've won a prize!" An SMS informing you that you've won a prize in a random contest is a big red flag. The fraudster is trying to gain access to your details by tempting you to click a link in the text to claim your "prize". It's best to delete these.
  1. Family emergencies

    Another text you should be aware of is the family emergency text. Here the fraudster claims that a family member of yours (conveniently unnamed) is in trouble and needs your help. All you have do to is transfer a sum of money and they'll be saved. Don't reply to these SMSs as fraudsters generally ask you to deposit money into their account or ask you for your account details. If you're concerned about a relative, rather phone them directly or contact the authorities.

Stay safe out there!

Don't let fraudsters get the better of you. Just remember to stay alert and to follow simple steps to bank online safely.

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