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An In-Depth Examination of Smishing Scams: How They Work, Statistics, Prevention Tips, and More

Smishing represents one of the most prevalent cybersecurity and privacy threats facing consumers today. But what exactly are these socially engineered text message scams, how do they work, and how can you avoid becoming the next victim?

This comprehensive expert guide will break down everything you need to know about spotting and stopping smishing attempts.

Defining Smishing: Phishing Scams Conducted via Texts

Smishing refers to phishing scams perpetrated through SMS text messages. The word itself combines "SMS" and "phishing."

Like email phishing, these scams aim to trick users into handing over login credentials, financial information, access to devices, and other sensitive data by disguising the texts as legitimate messages from trusted sources.

By clicking on links or following instructions in smishing texts, victims may have their information stolen, money drained from accounts, or malware installed on their phones without realizing until it‘s too late.

Scammers are able to hide their true identities and intentions through caller ID spoofing and persuasive social engineering tactics conveyed over text.

How Do Smishing Scams Work?

Smishing begins with an unsolicited text from an unknown number sent to a victim‘s smartphone.

The message is crafted to impersonate a trusted institution like a bank, online retailer, government agency, or delivery service that the recipient is likely to believe.

Through urgent wording and psychological triggers, the text tries to elicit fear or excitement to cloud the victim‘s judgement and elicit a quick, emotional response.

For example, the scam may:

  • Claim suspicious activity on an account was detected that requires immediate password changes
  • Allege significant fraudulent charges were made that must be disputed right away
  • Insist a time-sensitive delivery is scheduled and tracking info is needed to release the package
  • Notify the victim they have won a contest prize but need to claim it before time expires

The goal is to get the recipient to click on a malicious link or follow instructions to provide sensitive data under the guise of resolving an urgent issue or receiving a reward.

In reality, the link leads to phishing sites designed to steal account logins, financial information, or download malware onto devices undetected. With access and info gained, scammers can drain bank accounts, make fraudulent purchases, steal identities, and monitor device activity.

Smishing Statistics: Rising Threat Globally

Smishing represents a growing threat worldwide. According to data, monthly scam texts sent in the U.S. alone reached nearly 11 billion in August 2022.

Looking more broadly:

  • 64 billion smishing messages were sent globally in 2021, up 85% since 2020.
  • Smishing represented 15% of all phishing attacks in 2021, up from just 3% in 2015.
  • Losses due to smishing totaled $2 billion in 2021.

The following table summarizes the rising smishing landscape:

Year 2015 2020 2021
Total Smishing Messages Sent 8 billion 35 billion 64 billion
Percent of Phishing Attacks from Smishing 3% 10% 15%

As mobile device usage grows globally, individuals and businesses are increasingly being targeted through text scams.

Examples of Common Smishing Scams

While tactics constantly evolve, there are some well-known smishing scams that have stolen countless victims‘ personal data and money:

Fake Package Tracking

With more people shopping online, smishers send texts claiming package shipments requiring tracking number confirmations before delivery. The links go to phishing sites rather than real carriers.

Fraudulent Bank Alerts

Posing as banks, these texts warn of account suspensions, frozen transactions, or other problems that must be addressed immediately through links that steal logins and account info.

Social Engineering Lures

Messages claiming users have won prizes or identifying them as secret shoppers trick excitement-seeking victims into clicking phishing links.

Tech Support Scams

Scammers pretend to be Apple, Microsoft or Amazon support and insist devices have been hacked to get users to install remote access apps that enable device takeovers.

Malware Downloads

Instead of immediate info theft, smishing links can silently install spyware like stalkerware, trojans, info stealers and other malware to compromise devices and monitor activity.

Payment Scams

Victims are told payments, bills or invoices are outstanding and need immediate resolution via phishing links to steal financial account details.

As you can see, attack vectors are diverse, but social engineering and urgency triggers are universal across these prevalent scams.

Who is Behind Smishing and What Motivates Them?

Orchestrating smishing scams takes technical know-how and resources. Individual cybercriminals, organized rings, and state-sponsored groups are the key culprits.

Financial gain and access to sensitive data motivates smishing gangs. The scams generate huge profits through theft and extortion while requiring relatively low overhead.

State-sponsored smishing provides espionage opportunities against adversaries. Access to contacts, messages, accounts, and devices enables intelligence gathering and surveillance.

All smishers utilize the ubiquitous nature of texting to cheaply conduct mass phishing campaigns from anywhere globally while hiding behind spoofed numbers.

Expert Tips to Avoid Smishing Scams

With smishing volumes soaring, it‘s vital to recognize and avoid falling victim. As a cybersecurity professional, I recommend individuals and businesses follow these expert tips:

  • Never click on links or call numbers in unexpected or unsolicited texts – verify legitimacy through known contacts first.
  • Watch for urgent tones, grammar/spelling errors, requests for sensitive data, or threats of account suspensions.
  • Hover over links on your smartphone to preview their true destination before clicking.
  • Utilize spam call and text blocking apps through your mobile carrier.
  • Report smishing texts to carriers and authorities – FCC, FTC, local law enforcement.
  • Avoid entering phone numbers randomly online where scammers harvest contact data.
  • Never provide sensitive info solely based on a received text without confirming identity.

Staying vigilant, proactive, and informed represents your best defense against potential smishing threats. But if you do get tricked, quickly contact affected companies and financial institutions to contain the breach.


As texting continues to dominate global communications, smishing scams are running rampant thanks to the ubiquity and personal nature of the mobile channel.

By understanding common tactics, warning signs, and prevention methods, individuals and businesses can better secure their sensitive data, money, and devices from threat.

With scam innovation sure to continue evolving, maintaining awareness through expert guidance and resources will keep your defenses primed against the latest smishing techniques.

I hope these comprehensive insights and recommendations empower you to confidently identify and shut down smishing attempts as soon as they arise. Don‘t hesitate to contact me if you need any additional guidance protecting yourself in the digital world.


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StreamrGo is always about privacy, specifically protecting your privacy online by increasing security and better standard privacy practices.