Text Trap: Unmasking the Hidden Dangers of Text/SMS Scams and How to Stay Safe


February 28, 2024

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Text Trap: Unmasking the Hidden Dangers of Text/SMS Scams and How to Stay Safe

In an era where our phones buzz with notifications around the clock, the line between convenience and vulnerability blurs.

Text and SMS scams, once obvious and easily spotted, have morphed into sophisticated schemes that mimic the familiar tone of trusted entities, preying on the unwary.

Far from the clumsy attempts of the past, modern text scammers use psychological manipulation in conjunction with digital sleight of hand to pilfer personal information and financial assets, whether digital or physical.

Our guide aims to peel back the layers of these scams, shedding light on perpetrators’ ever-evolving tactics and equipping you with the knowledge needed to navigate this digital minefield.

Types of Text and SMS Scams

Text and SMS scams come in many forms; with scammers continuously honing their craft, these attempts at your well-being are becoming increasingly difficult to spot and defend against. Here are the most common types of scams perpetuated via text and SMS:

1. Smishing Scams

As its name suggests, smishing is a derivative of phishing that combines SMS texts and phishing to trick people into sharing sensitive information, downloading malicious software on their devices, or sending money to attackers.

Smishing stands out as the most prevalent and significant type of text and SMS scam, marking a critical concern within the digital realm. Like other scams, smishing campaigns aim to trick recipients into providing personal information by masquerading as legitimate entities.

In this scenario, threat actors may lead you to a rogue website mimicking a legitimate one and ask you to fill in a form with your personal or financial details. Scammers employ a broad range of pretexts to lure you to a harmful website, from enticing you with a prize to warning that your assets are at risk.

2. Banking Scams

In this scenario, threat actors masquerade as bank employees, requesting verification of account details or warning of unauthorized transactions.

Perpetrators instill a sense of urgency into victims, who are often demanded sensitive information, such as their account details or social security numbers.

The text often looks like a legitimate message from a financial institution. For instance, it might resemble a fraud alert or a notification that unauthorized charges have been made on your account.

3. Prize and Lottery Scams

This type of scam is self-explanatory: victims receive messages claiming they’ve won a prize or lottery, asking for payment to claim their winnings.

Sometimes, to mix things up, scammers may skip payment demands and ask victims to fill out a form or access a certain website to harvest their data.

4. Service Cancellation or Suspension Scams

In this scenario, threat actors send messages threatening their victims with the cancellation or suspension of a service unless immediate action is taken; the “action” usually means paying a required sum of money.

However, attackers may get creative and think of subtler, more effective ways to profit. They may ask victims to hand out sensitive data, install specific software on their devices, or even grant them remote access.

How Text and SMS Scams Work

Text and SMS scams operate on a cunning blend of psychological manipulation and technical deceit. At their core, these scams exploit human emotions, leveraging urgency, fear, and the convincing veil of legitimacy to prompt hasty decisions.

Scam messages are specifically crafted to trigger an instinctive reaction, often implying that immediate action is necessary to avoid adverse outcomes or to secure positive ones. This psychological play preys on natural responses to perceived threats or opportunities, bypassing rational, critical thinking processes.

On the technical side, the mechanics behind these scams are equally deceptive; scammers use sophisticated techniques to obfuscate their real identities, often masquerading as legitimate entities. One of the most common methods is number spoofing, where threat actors manipulate the caller ID to appear as if the message originates from a legitimate, trusted source.

Signs to Watch Out For

Although scammers are getting more creative and convincing by the day, some common signs could give away a malicious operation:

  • Urgency: scammers often instill a sense of urgency into targets to prompt quick action
  • Request for personal information: legitimate organizations typically do not request sensitive information via text
  • Spelling and grammar errors: professional messages are usually well-written and clear of grammar errors and mistypes
  • Suspicious links: check if the message contains shortened URLs or links that do not match the supposed sender’s official website

Protection Tips

Text and SMS scams may sound scary, but staying vigilant and maintaining a healthy level of skepticism towards unexpected texts and SMS messages can significantly enhance your ability to easily recognize them over time.

Educating yourself on the matter, staying informed, and questioning the authenticity of unsolicited communications will help you develop an intuitive sense of spotting these deceitful tactics without too much effort.

  • Avoid accessing suspicious links: never access links in text messages from unknown or questionable sources, as they may lead to malicious websites or software
  • Do not respond to unknown contacts: avoid engaging in conversations with unknown contacts, especially if the message instills a sense of urgency or promises unrealistic rewards
  • Verify the source: if a message claims to be from a reputable company or institution but seems suspicious, contact the entity directly using a verified number or email to confirm the message’s authenticity
  • Use spam filters: most smartphones have built-in features to filter out potential spam or scam messages; enable them to reduce the number of scam messages you receive
  • Use multi-factor authentication (MFA): enable MFA on your online accounts to add an extra layer of security and make it more difficult for scammers to access your accounts

Dedicated software can boost your defenses, giving you the upper hand against text and SMS scammers and keeping your devices, data, and assets safe against intrusions.

  • Bitdefender Ultimate Security: protects all your devices (Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS) against all known digital threats, including scams, phishing attacks, viruses, Trojans, worms, ransomware, zero-day exploits, spyware, and rootkits.
  • Bitdefender Digital Identity Protection: grants you an extensive overview of your online data, including traces from services you no longer use, notifies you if your data has been leaked in a data breach, and lets you patch weak spots in your digital footprint instantly.
  • Scamio: state-of-the-art AI scam detector that lets you check any suspicious text, SMS, email, instant message, link, or even QR code.




Vlad's love for technology and writing created rich soil for his interest in cybersecurity to sprout into a full-on passion. Before becoming a Security Analyst, he covered tech and security topics.

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