Smishing attacks increased 700% in first six months of 2021

A scam text message on a smartphone display
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Text phishing, or 'smishing' attacks, have increased by almost 700% since the beginning of this year, according to data from enterprise security provider Proofpoint, as reported by Which?.

Proofpoint compared the occurrence of SMS phishing attacks between July and December 2020 and January and June 2021, and found that there were 700% more attacks during the first six months of 2021 than compared to the second half of 2020.

Moreover, smishing seems to be especially popular in the UK, where reports of attacks were 15 times higher than in the US.

The dramatic increase in attacks can be attributed to the rise of parcel deliveries as lockdown restrictions increased consumers’ and businesses’ reliance on postal services. Proofpoint previously found that parcel and package delivery scams accounted for 67.4% of all smishing attempts. Meanwhile, impersonating financial services and banks had become less prevalent, making up only one in five (22.6%) reported attacks.

The findings echo those of Check Point Software from earlier this year, whose researchers warned of a 645% increase in Royal Mail-related phishing scams.


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Which?’s own research found that two of the top three most commonly reported text message scams have been from threat actors impersonating delivery companies, while more than 70% of those it surveyed admitted to no longer trusting text messages from companies to be free from scam risks.

Commenting on the findings, Which? director of Policy and Advocacy called on businesses to play their part to protect people from scams”.

“Smishing attempts have risen dramatically – with fraudsters taking advantage of the pandemic to trick consumers into giving away personal details and transferring their hard-earned cash,” he said, adding that a new SMS guide from Which? “aims to help organisations differentiate their texts from the scammers impersonating them so consumers can more easily recognise scam SMS messages”.

The 10-point guide has already been signed by delivery companies such as Hermes and DPD as well as banks Barclays and TSB.

“We welcome the commitment by the businesses who have signed up to our guide and hope this will encourage more organisations to consider how they can better protect their customers from fraud,” he added.

Proofpoint encourages people to report all spam texts by forwarding them to 7726 at no extra charge.

Sabina Weston

Having only graduated from City University in 2019, Sabina has already demonstrated her abilities as a keen writer and effective journalist. Currently a content writer for Drapers, Sabina spent a number of years writing for ITPro, specialising in networking and telecommunications, as well as charting the efforts of technology companies to improve their inclusion and diversity strategies, a topic close to her heart.

Sabina has also held a number of editorial roles at Harper's Bazaar, Cube Collective, and HighClouds.