When you think of scams, spam texts, or fake texts, you typically think about those that target the average person. But they can also affect you as a business owner. This can be especially problematic if it is a shared work phone and your employee who notices the message is not familiar with fake texts and what to do.

There’s also another practical application of learning how to identify a fake text message. You can use the signs of a fake text as a guide of what not to do in your SMS campaign. Our SMS marketing guide can help with this as well.

With so many reasons to know how to identify scam text messages, all that’s left is to learn the most common signs of such messages and what to do about fake texts.

What are spam or fake text messages?

Before you can learn how to identify fake text messages, you need to understand what they are. A spam or scam message is a fake text message that a scammer sends you in hopes that you complete an action of some sort. It is very common for them to try to get your personal information. They may also try to get money from you.

The following are just some spam text messages examples:

  • A promise of free gift cards or prizes
  • A promise of free money
  • Services that are too good to be true, such as letting you buy Facebook reviews for cheap
  • Coupons that are too good to be true
  • An offer for a credit card with no or low interest rate
  • A promise to help pay off loans
  • A message about your account or payment information (such as suspicious activity)
  • Asking for your online banking or direct deposit information 
  • A message about a fake transaction

The common theme among the above scams is that the sender wants you to give them money or personal information unwittingly. Remember that your bank will never ask for sensitive information over text. Neither will any other reputable company. 

Another category of spam texts installs malware or other harmful programs on your phone. These typically require you to click a link or download an attachment for the malware to infect your device. With all the possibilities, it’s crucial to know how to identify a fake message.

Man in Gray Sweater Holding Black Smartphone

Why do I get spam messages?

Spam messages are popular because they are sent in large quantities that scammers will profit from, even if only a small percentage of receivers fall for the scam. Scammers also know that the vast majority of people can receive text messages and don’t know how to identify fake text messages. They don’t mind sending thousands of texts to potentially active numbers in hopes of getting one successful scam in.

Remember that every spam message you receive has an ulterior motive of some sort. Maybe they want access to your personal data so they can steal money or your identity or just sell that information. Perhaps they want access to your phone, so they can get that information themselves without you giving it to them. 

How to identify a fake text message step-by-step

The primary method of identifying fake text messages is to look for warning signs that you are dealing with a scam. The following are some of the most common indications that your unexpected message is fake. 

Step 1: The message is irrelevant to you

If the message is completely irrelevant to you, there’s probably no legitimate reason you should receive it. In the best-case scenario, the message was intended for another person. In the worst-case scenario, it was spam. Either way, simply delete messages from unknown senders. 

Step 2: The text message contains misspellings or poor grammar

If the text claims to be from a business or organization but has grammatical errors and misspellings, this is a major red flag. This may or may not indicate spam if the message claims to be from someone you know. If you have doubts, it definitely won’t hurt to check with friends and loved ones.

Step 3: Abnormally long numbers

As a business owner, you know that most legitimate phone numbers will be either ten digits long or a shortcode. If a number is longer than this, it is likely to be a scam. There are exceptions to this, such as international numbers, but you should strongly consider this a suspicious text message.

Step 4: It offers random prizes

One of the most common text scams is a text message telling you that you won a prize, but you need to complete a few steps first. If you didn’t join any contests recently, then chances are the text message is a scam. That is especially true if the prize seems too good to be true. The text message doesn’t even have to offer a prize. It can just be writing discount offers.

This is one of the takeaways to keep in mind as a local business owner. If you conduct a giveaway over text messages, go out of your way to make it seem as legitimate as possible. Savvy people will already be on alert unless they remember entering the giveaway.

Step 5: The text message contains a suspicious link

Another significant indication is if the text has a suspicious link. As a general rule, if unwanted text messages have a link and are not from someone you know, it’s likely to be spam.

Step 6: The message’s tone is urgent or requests your immediate action

Among the most common warning signs is when the message seems urgent and demands immediate action. Examples include:

  • A family member or someone you know in crisis
  • Claiming to be the government or IRS
  • Claiming to be your bank about your bank account 

The sense of urgency is designed to have you respond so quickly that you forget to consider if the text message was legitimate.

Step 7: The text offers a fake refund

It’s also very common for scam text messages to say that you were accidentally overcharged in some way. This text message will often ask you to send back a code for a refund. The process that the scammer claims will give you a refund will typically actually send them money. 

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How to report a text message scam

The FTC offers clear guidance on what you should do about scam text messages. They highlight the fact that no company will ask you for account information via text. 

If you do think that the request for information is legitimate, don’t respond via text. Instead, call the company in question using the phone number you have for them. This way, you will know you are contacting a legitimate company. 

First, never open the link

The FCT highlights that you should never click a link in an unexpected text message. You should follow this strategy even if you think you know the sender but aren’t positive.

Remember that clicking a link may download malware on your phone. That malware will gather information from your phone. It may also slow down your phone or even have your phone perform actions you didn’t intend it to.

If the link doesn’t install malware, it will likely take you to a questionable website. That website could be a phishing attempt to gain personal information, such as credit card information.

Do research before replying with STOP

When you get a spam text, your first instinct may be to reply “STOP” in hopes that doing so unsubscribes you. However, you should always check the number and sender before doing so. That is because, in many cases, the scammers just want a response of any type. If you send them “STOP,” it won’t do anything except tell them that your line is active and it is a genuine phone number.

They may use that knowledge to their advantage to send you more spam text messages. They may also sell that information to others, meaning you may soon find yourself with even more spam messages. 

Report a bad message to your carrier

Most carriers will let you report fake messages to them. You may even be able to block messages from that sender. For almost all carriers, you can report the spam by forwarding the message to 7726 (SPAM). 

Other places to report a fake message

You should also take a few seconds to label the fake text as spam. This is an option right in your native messaging app for many phones. It’s also smart to report the message to the Federal Trade Commission. You can do so by forwarding it to SPAM (7726) or reporting it via the FTC’s designated website for doing so. 


Can you get scammed by opening a text?

While the act of opening an unwanted text message is unlikely to be the scam itself, it is the first step. If you fall for a phishing attempt or click a suspicious link, yes, you can be scammed. 

Can I trace text messages?

Your carrier can trace text messages, but they will typically only share the information with law enforcement. However, you can look up the number the message was sent from online or do a reverse search. 

Why am I suddenly getting spam texts?

If you suddenly start getting spam texts, your number may have been sold to a scammer. Or you may have inadvertently shared your personal information with a questionable person or business.

How do scammers have my personal information?

Scammers use a range of unscrupulous methods to get your personal information. You may be a victim of a phishing scam or data breach. 


You can be safer with your text messaging practices now that you know how to identify and report spam texts. Don’t forget to use your new knowledge to ensure that your customers don’t mistake your messages for spam. You can also ensure your messages are opened by maintaining a good sender score. Don’t forget that you need prior consent to send texts to customers. 

Isaiah Rendorio
Isaiah Rendorio Product Marketing Manager, Campaigns

Isaiah Rendorio is the Product Marketing Manager for Podium Campaigns—helping local businesses tap into the power of SMS marketing to strengthen customer relationships, increase customer lifetime value, and drive more revenue.

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