SMS Scams in the Philippines

Have you received a text message from an unknown number promising a certain amount of money or prizes after clicking a certain link? If yes, you’ve most likely become a target of an SMS scam. 

These deceptive text messages have recently become prevalent in the Philippines, putting unsuspecting individuals at risk of exposure to financial loss and personal information.

From lottery and investment fraud to fake charity appeals and phishing attempts, the range of SMS scams is alarmingly vast. In this blog, we’ll dive deeper into the gravity of SMS scams in the Philippines and teach you how to protect yourself against them. 

Understanding SMS Scams in the Philippines 

SMS scams occur when scammers send text messages to mobile phone users, tricking them into sharing personal information, making money transfers, or getting involved in malicious schemes.

A 2023 study found that of all the fraud cases that Filipinos report, 46% are smishing or SMS scams.

It has gotten so bad that text scammers have already claimed millions of dollars from network subscribers who ended up clicking on malicious links and giving up sensitive data. 

Local telecommunication companies have since tightened security measures to protect their subscribers from digital fraud.

For instance, Globe Telecom blocked 1.3 billion text scams from January to September 2022, a 13% increase from 1.15 billion blocked text scams in 2021. On the other hand, Smart blocked only website links that led to malicious sites. 

The Philippine government has also enacted the SIM Card Registration Act, which requires mobile device users to register their SIM cards and helps authorities protect individuals from smishing activities. 

Types of SMS Scams in the Philippines 

A photo depicting an SMS Scam.

SMS scams vary in form, sometimes making distinguishing them from real text messages from network service providers and brands difficult. Here are the types of SMS scams you should watch out for. 

  • Lottery and prize scams

    The scammer will claim that you won a raffle or are eligible for a prize like cash, a car, a travel package, or a house. They’ll also instruct you to call a specific number, asking you to send money or load credits before claiming your winnings.


  • Investment scams

    This scam involves enticing you to invest in fake or non-existent investment opportunities. These scams often promise high investment returns and may claim affiliation with reputable financial institutions or companies.


  • Identity theft and phishing scams

    The scammer will claim to be a legitimate organization’s or financial institution’s representative and ask for sensitive information such as your login credentials, credit card or bank account details, and one-time passwords (OTPs).

With this data, they’ll access your bank accounts, make unauthorized transactions, or commit identity theft.

  • Missent load scam

    An unknown number will send a text message mimicking a prepaid load notification. Moments later, the scammer will claim that the load was mistakenly sent to you and insist you return it.

In reality, you did not receive any prepaid load credits; the scammer is only tricking you into giving them your existing credits.

  • Discount billing scam

    The scammer will falsely claim you qualify for a discount on your postpaid bill. However, the message intends to deceive you into sending prepaid load credits to an unfamiliar number. Scammers usually target postpaid subscribers for this scheme.


  • Final warning to register sim card

    This scam involves falsely pressuring you to register your SIM card via a malicious site. The scammer will usually pose as your bank or network service provider. 

Risks Involved in SMS Scams

You may experience severe consequences for falling victim to an SMS scam. Here are some of the risks involved in fraudulent text messages.  

  • Financial loss

    You may directly lose money through unauthorized charges on your accounts or bank transfers to the scammer. You may even have difficulty recovering the lost money or permanently lose your funds if you can’t prove that you did not authorize these transactions. 


  • Identity theft

    The scammer may assume your identity using your personal information to commit fraud. Identity theft can result in financial damage, damage to credit scores, and a long and complex process to restore your identity.


  • Unauthorized access to personal information

    The scammer may commit financial fraud, breach your privacy, or blackmail you using your personal information.


  • Psychological impact

    You may feel embarrassed, ashamed, angry, or betrayed for falling for an SMS scam. You may also no longer trust digital communication channels or brands that use SMS marketing to communicate with you.

Avoiding SMS Scams 

Identifying and avoiding SMS scams requires a proactive approach and attentiveness to potential red flags. Here are some tips to prevent and protect yourself from SMS scams.

  1. Be cautious of unsolicited messages

    Be wary of text messages from unfamiliar numbers or unexpected sources. Scammers often send unsolicited messages to initiate their fraudulent activities.


  2. Verify the sender’s identity

    If you receive a text claiming to be from a specific organization or company, take the time to verify the sender’s identity independently. Contact the organization through official channels or visit their website to confirm the message’s legitimacy.


  3. Scrutinize message content for suspicious elements

    Look out for spelling or grammatical errors, unusual requests, or messages that create a sense of fear or urgency. These signs point to a potential scam.


  4. Avoid clicking on links or downloading attachments

    Don’t click links or download attachments sent via SMS unless you trust the sender or source or have vetted their legitimacy. Scammers use these tactics to lead you to malicious websites or infect your device with malware.


  5. Don’t disclose personal information

    Be cautious about sharing personal information such as your bank account details, passwords, or other sensitive data through SMS. Legitimate organizations would not typically ask for such information via text.


  6. Install reliable security software on mobile devices

    Security software or applications specifically designed for mobile devices can help detect and block potential threats, including SMS scams and malware.


  7. Regularly update device software and applications

    Keep your mobile device’s operating system and all installed applications up to date. Software updates often contain important security patches that address vulnerabilities that scammers may exploit.


  8. Be mindful of privacy settings on social media platforms

    Adjust your privacy settings on social media platforms to limit the amount of personal information that’s publicly visible. Doing so reduces the chances of scammers obtaining your details they can use in SMS scams.


  9. Learn more about common SMS scam tactics

    Stay informed about the various tactics and techniques scammers employ in SMS scams so you can recognize and avoid falling victim to them.

Be Aware of SMS Scams

Stay alert and careful with text messages to protect yourself from SMS scams. Don’t trust suspicious messages, avoid sharing personal info or making transactions solely based on texts, and verify any claims or offers you receive through SMS.

If you encounter them, report SMS scams to the appropriate authorities like the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) or the Philippine National Police (PNP) Anti-Cybercrime Group. Contribute to the collective effort in combating fraudulent activities.

Contact NTC

  • +632 8920 4464
  • +632 8926 7722
  • +632 8921 3251

Contact PNP Anti-Cybercrime Group:

If you’re running a business and don’t want to lose your SMS subscribers due to these scams, work with an enabler of trusted SMS marketing for businesses like Semaphore.

Our data-driven SMS marketing solutions ensure your messages are tied to your business name instead of an ordinary phone number, assuring your subscribers that they directly and only engage with you. 

Contact us today to strengthen your SMS marketing efforts!

Alex built Semaphore’s tech backbone and keeps it running smoothly. With deep experience in tech: Over 20 years in Web Development, IT and Infrastructure; 10+ years management experience in technology; and an expert in enterprise application architecture, development and tech processes, Alex is an old-hat in bridging the gap between geeks and suits as well as applying tech to real-world business problems. Connect with Alex on LinkedIn.

How to Identify and Avoid SMS Scams [Infographic]

How to Avoid SMS Scams (Banner)

Unwanted messages, calls, emails, and solicitations bombard people on a regular basis. Those who know better simply hit delete or ignore them, quickly identifying that these are scams. However, not everyone is as well-informed when it comes to identifying such schemes, especially in times of crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many scammers take advantage of crises or times of fear to prey on the vulnerable for monetary purposes. Their tactics include phishing emails and sending attachments (claiming to provide more information about the virus) to deliver malware. Data shows that in the UK, there have been reports of more than 500 COVID-19-related scams and over 2,000 phishing attempts to exploit fears, with a total loss of £1.6 million.

Email and social media networks are known channels where users should keep watch of fraudsters, but there’s another important channel that people should look out for scams: SMS.

Roughly 5 billion people around the world can send and receive SMS messages, which makes them a great channel for potential scammers. Let’s have a look at more interesting facts about SMS messaging:

  • Text messages have a 98% open rate.
  • 10% of SMS marketing messages are spam as opposed to roughly 50% of email messages.
  • 31% of mobile users have received an SMS message from unknown senders asking them to click on a suspicious link. 
  • Around 92% of text spam messages fall under the scam/fraud category. 

As online shopping and mobile banking become more prevalent, smartphones are making it more convenient to connect and perform transactions online. That said, the more connected we are, the easier it is for us to become targets for fraudsters.  

Below is a quick infographic to help you spot common SMS scams and avoid falling into their traps.

How to Avoid SMS Scams

Identifying Common Types of SMS Scams 

Spam SMS

In India alone, a survey shows that about 96% of Indians receive unsolicited text messages daily, and 70% of them still receive spam messages despite registering on the “do not disturb” (DND) list. Spam messages are usually harmless promotional material, but some are more malicious and aim to acquire the target recipient’s name, address, and even bank details.

Spam SMS is glaringly obvious sometimes, yet many people still fall for it. The best you can do is not show any interest in what the suspicious message requests for or promotes. 

Phishing SMS

Data shows that there has been a significant spike in SMS phishing in 2018, mainly targeting the financial sector. Mobile-specific phishing tools imitate login screens of legitimate mobile apps, making it more difficult to track and respond to compared to traditional phishing attacks. 

Phishing for personal details over SMS is common via hyperlinks. Watch out for the domain URL as it can look similar to the company’s actual domain but with subtle differences. For instance, a phishing domain might use something like “,” whereas the official Apple support domain is “”

SMS Originator Spoofing

SMS originator is also known in the industry as SMS Sender ID or sender. The spoofing happens when the malicious hacker alters their sender ID and uses the display name or number of the identity they’re trying to imitate. This tricks the recipient into trusting the sender and into providing the information they’re asking for. 

Spoofing scams aren’t easy to spot right away since they pose as a reputable brand or company. One way to avoid them is to confirm the message’s validity through the brand directly on another channel, whether via social media networks or email. If you suspect anything fishy, always double check by verifying.

SMS Malware Attack

In 2018, there was a jump in activity of a backdoor malware app targeting Android devices. It tricked mobile users into installing the app by sending SMS messages redirecting to a third-party download site, exposing the devices to attacks. 

Malware attacks give cybercriminals access to just about anything on your phone. You can’t vaccinate your smartphone, but you can steer clear of malware attacks by being wary of what not to click. You can also install an antivirus app on your smartphone to protect it against viruses or various types of malware. 

Learn to Recognize These Common SMS Scam Tactics

SMS scams are on the rise as more people become knowledgeable enough to spot traditional email phishing schemes and other fraudulent messages. These messages are often sent from an automated dialing system aiming at a specific area code or region. Meanwhile, the mobile numbers are obtained by stealing customer information from banks, companies, or elsewhere on the internet

SMS/text message fraud is inevitable in a mobile-first world. But the growing threat of text messaging fraud brings greater opportunity for online criminal activity. The most common fraud schemes used are family emergency texts to shake up the victims, refund scams, account reactivation text, random prize or giveaway scams with a catch, and delivery scams.

Many scammers masquerade as a business or as a familiar brand to provide a sense of legitimacy and they usually use persuasion techniques to drive their targets to bite. 

Tactics like these work because they attack a user’s pain points and vulnerabilities, motivating them to act against their better judgement. Furthermore, text messaging doesn’t have a stringent filter software like emails do, making it harder to detect fraud. 

Quick Tips to Avoid SMS Scams

  • Don’t click on any unknown messages with suspicious links.
  • Do report SMS scam messages or file a complaint with your carrier or raise the issue to the brand or company being imitated so they can alert their customers.
  • Don’t respond or engage with suspicious messages, especially those that sound too good to be true.
  • Do update the passwords you use online, specifically your online banking passwords. This is important if you think you may have already fallen victim to a scam. Resetting your passwords will make it difficult for the hacker to continue accessing your account.
  • Don’t give away your personal information willy-nilly. Reputable brands generally don’t ask for your personal information out of nowhere. You won’t fall victim to SMS scams if you ignore the message or click on a link.
  • Do conduct a quick search to check if the number appears on spam-check or phone number lookup sites. Always verify the domain of legitimate websites.
  • Don’t indulge in messages that urge a quick response. Contact the bank or business associated with them to check if it is a legitimate request.
  • Do install a trusted anti-virus app on your phone to protect it against Trojans, spyware, or viruses, and download only from the official app store. 

Don’t Fall Victim to SMS Scams

There can be a lot of anxiety about receiving malware, spams, and getting scammed through SMS messages. Scammers only have one goal in mind: to steal your data for their own benefit. It’s important to be more dubious of any SMS messages you receive that aren’t from the people or brands that you trust. There’s no harm in being diligent and careful to keep yourself from doing something you’ll regret. 

To avoid SMS scams, mobile users need to be vigilant when receiving unsolicited messages from unknown sources. Verify the authenticity of the message by contacting the sender directly through a trusted source or by conducting an online search. By staying cautious and taking proactive measures, mobile users can protect themselves from SMS scams and safeguard their personal information.

When all’s said and done, keep in mind that scams won’t ever stop coming. You can get rid of a few, but more schemes will pop up again in the future as motivated hackers become more sophisticated in their methods. 


Are you a business or brand looking for a trustworthy SMS marketing tool? Semaphore offers reputable SMS solutions that help businesses provide a better customer experience for their audience.

Alex built Semaphore’s tech backbone and keeps it running smoothly. With deep experience in tech: Over 20 years in Web Development, IT and Infrastructure; 10+ years management experience in technology; and an expert in enterprise application architecture, development and tech processes, Alex is an old-hat in bridging the gap between geeks and suits as well as applying tech to real-world business problems. Connect with Alex on LinkedIn.