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FBI issues warning about 'smishing' scams

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LAS VEGAS (KSNV) - “Smishing” might be a funny-sounding word, but Aaron Rouse, the FBI’s Special Agent in Charge of its Las Vegas office, says it’s a serious problem.

Like “phishing,” when scammers try to entice victims to click on an email link, smishing involves Short Message Service (SMS) as a text message on your cell phone.

And just like phishing, clicking on the link can lead to identity theft and ripoffs.

“Smishing is is the latest form of scams out there in the very useful world of telecommunications,” said Rouse. “We love our devices. We love being able to go online and communicate with anyone we want and have access to all of these things. But that provides a portal for bad guys to do bad things.”

It all begins when the person receiving the text clicks on the link. “You'll have a loss of access to your device, sometimes. You'll have afforded somebody access to your device, and you'll possibly lose personally identifiable information. So it's something that we just like we say with email. If you didn't ask for it, don't click on it,” Rouse said.

A few examples of smishing making the rounds – a text claiming to be from AT&T saying your bill has been paid, followed by a link to claim a prize, or a text claiming to be Netflix telling the target they need to click on the attached link if they want to "keep watching."

“I get pre-approved for certain things, or really weird texts,” said Lisa Mesa, who has received numerous smishing texts. “They actually get kind of personal. They make it sound like they're a friend reaching out to you sometimes too. It says your appointment is ready - click on this link.”

Special Agent Rouse says no one has been arrested in Las Vegas on charges related to smishing but it’s just a matter of time. That’s because he says the scammers can operate from anywhere, which is why the FBI needs the public to report smishing if they’re targeted.

“They can be anywhere. It really does depend on the scheme that's being perpetrated, and the amount of effort behind it,” Rouse said. “Sometimes we see very widespread scams. It'll go out and we quickly become aware of it because people will do the right thing, they report it to”

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Rouse says individuals need to be vigilant in their own security. “If you didn't ask for it, if you didn't solicit information regarding that, don't click on links. Verify who is sending you that information. It's very easy to do. If you're getting unsolicited texts, do what I do delete them.”

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