How short code text messages can be safer than texts from regular phone numbers

Jun 7, 2023, 10:23 PM | Updated: 11:09 pm

 When you get a text message from a company, it can be hard to know if it's legitimate. (KSL TV)...

 When you get a text message from a company, it can be hard to know if it's legitimate. (KSL TV)


On weekdays, from 9 a.m. till noon, KSL NewsRadio hosts Dave Noriega and Debbie Dujanovic weigh in on hot topics. Often, they are inviting listeners to weigh in, too. The most common to engage with Dave & Dujanovic is by texting them at 57500.

It’s hard not to notice, but their number is only five digits, not the ten digits of a regular phone number.

KSL NewsRadio is using what’s called an SMS short code. Short codes are five or six-digit numbers that can be used to send and receive texts.

And it is not just the length that separates short codes from those 10-digit numbers, explained telecommunications expert Chris Drake, chief technology officer of iconectiv.

“Fundamentally, they’re a trustworthy message,” Drake said. “You might not have wanted it (the text), but it’s a trustworthy message.”

Drake said SMS short codes are set up in several ways that prevent fraud, but one of the biggest is they are not in a typical scammer’s budget.

“It’s quite a bit more expensive for a sender like a bank or somebody or a brand,” he explained. “But it’s secure. It only works if a customer opts in. They should never receive an unsolicited text message from something they didn’t ask for.”

SMS short codes also cannot be easily spoofed – where a con man disguises his number so that it shows up on your caller ID looking like it really is the IRS, a utility, or some other organization calling.

Drake said the technology is not new, per se, but it is growing in popularity to combat the surge of scammers impersonating legitimate companies.

“Be on double guard for text messages from ten digits,” he warned. “It’s less likely there’s a problem if it’s a short code.”

You have to opt-in for short codes. For example, you can text News to 57500, and boom, you’re signed up for KSL NewsRadio news alerts. But also, by law, companies that use short codes must also have an option for users to opt out of receiving messages, many by simply texting STOP to the short code number.

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How short code text messages can be safer than texts from regular phone numbers