Have you ever received a text message from a number you don’t recognize, claiming to be from your bank or another service provider? Chances are, you have been the victim of SMS spoofing.
Only 30% of people are aware of SMS phishing – which is a huge issue, since almost every phishing scam begins with a spoof. This lack of awareness is the reason why there has been an alarming increase in successful SMS attacks. In 2021 the FTC reported a staggering $131 million in losses from SMS scams in America alone.
By 2022, $230 million has already been lost to SMS fraud! As can be seen, spoofing is becoming more common, the sooner you take preventative measures, the better. So, what is SMS spoofing exactly? Can you spoof a text message? How can you protect yourself and your organization from a possible attack? Let’s find out.
What Does SMS Spoofing Mean?
SMS spoofing involves sending a text message from a phone number that does not belong to the actual sender. This is typically accomplished by obscuring the original number or name and substituting it with something else. It is a tactic used by individuals with malicious intent to mislead people into believing a message is authentic when it is not. SMS spoofing can be used for various purposes, such as masking the sender’s identity or impersonating another person.
Though it is often abused for spamming, phishing and other unlawful activities, spoofing can be utilized for legitimate purposes. For instance, companies who aim to customize their communication through text marketing may substitute their sender ID from a phone number to their name
The main point here is to alter the phone number or name that shows up on the recipient’s device. For example, back in May 2022, the UK government had to caution its citizens to be on the lookout for any bogus SMSs bearing the HRMC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs) banner. Scammers had employed spoofed numbers that displayed HRMC as the sender in order to deceive people into making payments or applying for a tax refund.
This phishing attack was unfortunately rather successful due to the fact that the HRMC is a known government agency for taxes and duties in the UK. But seriously, how did the phishers get past the HRMC’s defenses? Let’s figure it out and see exactly how SMS spoofing works.
How Is Someone Spoofing My Phone Number?
It’s ridiculously simple for someone suspicious to pretend to be you and spoof your phone number! They can make it look like calls and texts are coming from your number, even though they’re not! Well, here are a few ways it can be done.
- Spoofing service: So, apparently there are websites and digital tools that let you enter a phone number and then you can use it to make calls or send spoofed SMSs! Additionally, Linux systems are particularly convenient for SMS spoofing due to the presence of an SMS spoofing attack tool.
- Database breach: Your number can be exploited to send bogus messages to your contacts, making them believe it’s from you! It only takes a person with hi-tech abilities, the tools and the know-how to break into a cellular network database and switch a user’s ID.
Spoofing a Text Message: Legal vs. Illegal Uses
SMS spoofing can be legal and acceptable as long as there is no fraudulent intent or impersonation. By law and ethical standards, it is illegal to send a text message or any other form of communication under someone else’s name without their permission.
Doing so may be considered a form of identity theft, which is a criminal offense in most jurisdictions. So can you spoof a text message, or is it right for you to send a spoofed SMS? Let’s find out the legal application of SMS spoofing.
Legal Uses of SMS Spoofing
Here is a brief explanation of how to do SMS spoofing the legal way.
- Personalized marketing: Some companies may use SMS spoofing to send personalized marketing messages to customers as long as they have obtained the necessary consent and adhere to all relevant laws and regulations. For example, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the United States has established rules for using shortcodes, which are five or six-digit numbers that businesses can use to send text messages to consumers. Other countries also have their unique SMS regulations senders must comply with. However, these rules require businesses to obtain consent from consumers before sending them text messages and to provide opt-out mechanisms so that consumers can stop receiving messages if they wish.
- Bulk messaging: Bulk SMS services let you send messages to a large number of people at the same time. People and businesses often employ this service to disseminate messages quickly to a group of people.
- Internal corporate communication: Some companies may use SMS spoofing to communicate internally, such as by sending messages from a company’s HR department to employees.
- Emergency alerts: Some emergency alert systems may use SMS spoofing to send important information to many people in a specific area.
Illegal Uses of SMS Spoofing
Here are unacceptable uses of SMS spoofing;
- Identity theft: This happens when a person employs SMS spoofing to send messages under someone else’s name or identity to mislead people, steal sensitive information or commit fraud.
- Harassment: Using SMS spoofing to send threatening or abusive messages to someone or to engage in cyberbullying.
- Fraudulent money transfers: Scammers frequently use SMS to impersonate a user’s financial service provider with the intention of deceiving them into sending sensitive information like debit/credit card details, verification codes, etc.
- Scams and phishing: This is the practice of sending false messages that appear to be from a reputable business or organization to convince recipients to part with cash or sensitive information.
Spoofed SMS Verification: How to Detect Spoofing
Identifying a spoofed SMS may seem tough, especially from a cursory look. Fraudsters can be crafty, making it hard for you to pinpoint any discrepancies. But, it’s critical for us to become more aware of the messages we receive before making any moves.
Here are a few indicators you can look out for to spot a potential spoof SMS:
Texts With Suspicious Links and Attachments
Scammers habitually include spoofing links and attachments to spoofed SMS, which may be a coy to mislead you into installing malware, spyware, or a virus on your phone or mobile device. It could also be a ruse to trick you into providing billing or other personal information.
Here is a typical example of a spoofed SMS with a suspicious link.
Message Contains Grammatical Errors
Spoofed messages are often riddled with typos and other errors, as attackers may need to be more familiar with the language or tone of the service they are impersonating.
Text Creates a Sense of Urgency
The point of a spoofed SMS is to deceive you into handing over confidential information or doing something that isn’t in your best interest. The sender seeks to induce a sense of distress or haste to make you act without thinking it through.
For instance, you may receive a spoofed SMS from your bank telling you that your debit card has been blocked and that you need to send the debit card details so that they unblock it. Such messages are almost always attempts at fraud.
SMS Contains Unbelievable Offers
Many fraudsters attempt to fleece people by sending a “too good to be true” offer or some kind of benefit or reward. It may come as a message saying you won a large amount of money, a gift, or a discount. When you receive such messages, you should first contact the impersonated brand through other channels, and not the means suggested in the SMS.
Safety-Proof Ways to Prevent SMS Spoofing
There’s no surefire way to completely ward off SMS spoofing, but following these steps can help you avoid being taken advantage of.
- Be wary of messages that contain links and attachments: If you receive a text message with a link, be cautious before clicking on it. If you are not expecting the message or if it seems suspicious, it’s best to err on the side of caution and not click on the link.
- Examine the sender’s details: Observe the sender’s information closely. Grammatical mistakes or slight variations in the Sender Name or Number are common in spoofed texts. Before responding to any text message, check the details, especially if something appears strange.
- Always verify and double-check sensitive requests: Do not be in haste to reply to any message requesting you to send your personal information. If you’re not certain, reach out to the sender via other official means.
- Use two-factor authentication and one-time passwords: Two-factor authentication (2FA) adds an extra layer of security to your online accounts by requiring you to enter a code sent to your phone in addition to your password. This can help protect you from SMS spoofing attacks. Implementing one-time passwords or OTPs can also be an added security so that bad actors cannot access your important accounts.
How BSG Can Protect You against SMS Spoofing
BSG has taken measures to prevent SMS spoofing by obtaining necessary certifications and becoming an authorized SMS operator. These certifications are meant to guarantee the safety and dependability of our service. Additionally, they enforce adhering to industry standards and regulations, as well as conducting continuous security assessments to confirm that our systems and procedures are up-to-date and effective.
Using HTTPS secure protocols, BSG guarantees the confidentiality and integrity of your SMS messages. So, these messages are encrypted when transmitted between our servers and your devices, preventing hackers from intercepting or manipulating them. By choosing BSG as your SMS operator, you can trust that your messages are being handled with the utmost security and reliability, protecting you from SMS spoofing and other malicious attacks.
According to the FTC report, SMS recorded the most fraud attempts, with over 250,000 reports in the US alone this year. We are currently in a situation where SMS portends a high risk largely due to a lack of awareness and frail security infrastructure provided by many SMS marketing providers. To be safe and guarantee the safety of your business and users, you must be cautious and employ trusted and secure SMS solutions providers like BSG.
Q: Can SMS messages be spoofed?
A: Yes, SMS messages can be spoofed. Some SMS spoofing methods include using online tools that allow users to send messages from fake phone numbers or software that allows users to manipulate the sender information in their SMS messages.
Q: What does a spoof text look like?
A: A spoof text is a type of fraudulent text message that is designed to appear as if it has been sent from a legitimate source, such as a bank or a government agency. These texts may contain links that, when clicked, can install malware on your device or redirect you to a phishing website.
Q: What are spoofed messages?
A: These are messages that have been altered to appear to have come from a different sender than they actually did. This can be done for several purposes, including distributing false information, engaging in fraud or other unlawful activities, or deceiving people into thinking the message comes from a reliable source.
Q: Is it possible for someone to send a text from my number?
A: It is possible, in fact, easy for a dubious person to spoof or impersonate your phone number. Implying that they are able to make it appear as if a call or text message is coming from your phone number, even though it is not actually coming from you.