What Is SMS Spoofing? Everything You Should Know About this Common Scam

by | Aug 11, 2022

When you hear of online or phone scamming, you think of phishing or smishing, and one of the relatively new terms is SMS spoofing. And like the other related terms, SMS spoofing is an act mostly done with fraudulent intent. 

Even though the term might be new to you, it is an old trick. In the past, anyone could impersonate the sender of a letter or a message.

SMS spoofing is a form of impersonation via Short Message Service (SMS). It involves altering a sender’s number or name so that the text you receive looks like it is from someone else. In other words, the fraudster sends a text with their number, but when it appears on your phone, you will see another person’s name instead of theirs. 

Whether it changes only the sender’s name or contact details, you will not be able to see the originator sender’s details. And you will not be able to trace the message, nor will you be able to reply to or block notifications from them.

SMS spoofing has hurt many innocent users who were ignorant of the technique. To get you informed so you don’t fall a victim too, you’ll find more information in the following.

How Does SMS Spoofing Work?

SMS Spoofing is a cybercriminal act, and it is mostly illegal. The internet has made this activity easy by making tools available to anyone who wants to use it. All that fraudsters have to do is download the software, and they can choose the name of the company, person, or number they want to impersonate.

There are many businesses offering SMS spoofing services at low prices. Many internet fraudsters can therefore easily afford and access this service.

Fraudsters often can not use the sender’s complete details, so they must change a number, letter, or symbol in the details they are impersonating. For instance, imagine getting a message from PayPaI instead of PayPal.

It’s very likely you also can’t immediately spot the difference. Here’s the difference: the former has an uppercase ‘i’ instead of a lowercase ‘l.’ (ai instead of el)

What Is The Difference Between Spoofing And Smishing?

Though they are both fraudulent acts via SMS, they are quite different, and one can lead to another. Smishing is SMS phishing involving the victim clicking a link or downloading a virus sent via SMS, leaving space for the fraudster to access the user’s information. 

However, SMS spoofing involves impersonating a sender’s name or contact details. Since the message will look like it is from a known sender, it gains the recipient’s trust, making them trust the message. Then, the recipient can follow the message sent to them, which can lead to smishing. 

Proper Use of SMS Spoofing

As much as we refer to those who use SMS spoofing as fraudsters, it is not entirely accurate as some people use it for legitimate reasons. Here are some excellent ways to put SMS spoofing to use.

  1. Official Messages from Corporate Organizations

You might be surprised that corporate organizations such as mobile network providers, banks, social media platforms (Twitter, Instagram, etc.), and email providers use SMS spoofing to send messages to their users. When they want to send official notifications to the users, they must add an identity so that the message will be acknowledged. So, instead of showing the number, they replace it with their names.

  1. Bulk Messages

This is similar to what the corporate bodies do, only that individuals do this. They send broadcasts to many numbers from a computer network and add their names as identities. 

  1. To Prevent Replies

 If a company or corporate body wants to send messages but does not want to allow users to send replies, they can use SMS spoofing since it does not allow replies from the recipient. 

  1. Identity Protection

Some organizations value privacy because of their work’s nature, for example, security and whistle-blowing organizations. They protect their identity so that you have no way to contact them. 

Illegitimate Use of SMS Spoofing

As mentioned earlier SMS spoofing is used for fraudulent activities. Scammers use it in two ways most of the time. They are

  1. For Smishing or Phishing

If you find links in an SMS and are unsure of the sender’s identity, do not click on the link because it is a way for the sender to access your phone and relevant information. They send you a message scaring or tricking recipients into clicking the link attached to the SMS. 

Imagine getting a message from your supposed financial institution telling you to submit your details or your account will be disabled, and you will lose all your money. The fear of not losing all you worked for will be so intense that you might not think straight until after you submit all the documents. 

This is a prevalent scamming technique nowadays, and people are taking the bait because they do not know about SMS spoofing. 

  1. For Fake Alerts

This is another prevalent trick by these fraudsters. When they buy things and are meant to make bank transfers, they send alerts in the bank’s name, tricking the trader into thinking they have sent them money. 

This is easier if the fraudster knows the number the trader receives their alert on, so they go to the SMS spoofing website and send an SMS that looks exactly like a credit alert. The SMS will contain the person’s account number (with hashes in place of the last four digits), the transaction date, and the amount transferred. It looks so real that the unsuspecting victim might not crosscheck other details like the balance. 

Conclusion

SMS spoofing is so accessible that some people use it to trick, stalk, prank, abuse, and do all sorts of things to the recipient. 

Many organizations now warn against customers falling victim to this fraudulent act, but many are still oblivious to what it is and how to recognize it. 

Be careful not to click any link sent via SMS, especially if you are not sure it is from a certified organization. Ask for email verifications for double confirmation and delete any suspicious-looking message immediately.

Also read: What Is A Spam Text Message?

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