Be on your guard - that innocent-looking text message could be a scam

A cropped close up of young people holding mobile phones.
(Image credit: golubovy / Getty Images)

Conversational mobile text message scams have skyrocketed in 2023, as data shows such tactics increased threefold over the last year.

New research from Proofpoint has claimed such scams have jumped by 318% around the world on average. In the US, they have risen by 328%, and in the UK by a massive 663%.

What's worse is that Proofpoint believes scammers are crafting increasingly more sophisticated scams, including impersonation of family members, which it found to be a common theme across the various markets it looked at.

Child impersonation

Proofpoint has seen evidence of scammers impersonating children in messages to parents, asking for money transfers after claiming their phone has broke or become lost. 

Stuart Jones, Director of the Cloudmark Division at the company, commented on the lengths scammers go to, explaining, "threat actors spend time and effort (often weeks) building trust with their targeted victims by striking up what starts out as a benign, innocuous messaging conversation designed to trick them, thus circumventing technical and human defenses." 

He added, "there are many variations of these attacks and mobile users should be very skeptical of any messages from unknown senders, especially considering how artificial intelligence tools are making it possible for threat actors to make their attacks more realistic than ever."

However, Proofpoint's research also found that growth in smishing messages in general has slowed over the past 18 months. But it is keen to point out that the risk still remain serious.

These usually become more prevalent as the holiday season approaches, with many cybercriminals sending out fake 'missed delivery' messages in order to commit identity theft and defraud victims.

Proofpoint recommends that users who encounter smishing and other suspicious content on their mobile device report it using the relevant Android and iOS features for this purpose. Spam messages can also be forwarded to 7726 (which spells "SPAM" on keypads).


Lewis Maddison
Staff Writer

Lewis Maddison is a Staff Writer at TechRadar Pro. His area of expertise is online security and protection, which includes tools and software such as password managers. 

His coverage also focuses on the usage habits of technology in both personal and professional settings - particularly its relation to social and cultural issues - and revels in uncovering stories that might not otherwise see the light of day.

He has a BA in Philosophy from the University of London, with a year spent studying abroad in the sunny climes of Malta.