‘Smishing’: Warning over this common scamming trick in France

It comes as 15-year-old is arrested near Bordeaux on suspicion of using this way of scamming to spend €12,000 of victims’ money on online shopping goods

Even if you think a message could possibly be genuine, it is best to err on the side of caution and never click on a link from inside an SMS

A 15-year-old has been arrested in connection with suspected ‘smishing’ offences, an increasingly-common crime in France in which scammers send fraudulent links in SMS messages.

The teenager - and a friend who allegedly helped - were arrested near Bordeaux. The boy is suspected of sending hundreds of SMS (text messages), inviting would-be victims to click on a link in the message, in a bid to capture and use their bank details, reports La Dépêche.

This crime has become known as ‘smishing’ - a portmanteau of the words SMS and ‘phishing’ - a scam where criminals deceive people into revealing sensitive information, usually by creating websites that look very similar to trusted services.

The links sent in the SMS messages invited recipients to click and enter their details, and sent them to a page that looked exactly like a genuine website. Using the victims’ data, the 15-year-old then allegedly spent €12,000 on online shopping. The friend allegedly picked up the fraudulent parcels in a bid to avoid tipping off the victims.

The teenager was already known to police for suspected digital hacking and scammer offences; for example, he has previously pretended to be a package delivery company, in a bid to capture the recipient’s details. He has also impersonated a streaming service for the same reason.

The two are now set to go on trial in June, charged with “fraud, possession without legitimate reason of equipment for a breach of an automated data processing system, forgery, use of forgery and handling of stolen goods”, said the Bordeaux public prosecutor's office.

Read also: New scam alert in France over ‘Your parcel has been sent’ texts 

How can I avoid being scammed by ‘smishing’?

Ideally, you will never get to the fraudulent website that a link sends you to because the official advice is to never click on a link inside an SMS if there is any doubt over its origin. 

Always stay alert to the possibility of a ‘smishing’ scam, even if the message appears relevant to you.

For example, if you receive an SMS about income taxes soon after filing your return, or you receive a message about a parcel at the exact time you are expecting an online shopping order to arrive…

Read also: Beware: New text message scam targets French tax return season 

Even if you think the message could possibly be genuine, it is best to err on the side of caution, and follow the following advice:

  • Never click on a link sent in a text message

  • Instead, navigate to the website manually in a separate browser, and check the URL carefully

  • Do not enter your payment details on a website sent by SMS

  • If in doubt, do not click or fill in any forms or pay any money, and contact the authority, agency, or company first

If you think you have fallen victim to a scam, call your bank, and report it to this government website.