Ashley Rowan
Ashley Rowan
February 8th, 2024

Smishing vs. Phishing - What's the Difference?

Two common types of cyber deception that often get confused are Phishing and Smishing. Although they share similarities in their objective—to trick individuals into divulging sensitive information—their methods of delivery and execution differ significantly. This article will explore the key distinctions between Phishing and Smishing, offering insights into how they operate and providing tips on how to protect yourself against these cyber threats.

What is Phishing?

Phishing is a form of cyber attack that involves the use of fraudulent emails or websites designed to impersonate legitimate organizations. The goal of phishing is to deceive individuals into providing sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, credit card details, or other personal data. Phishing emails often contain links to counterfeit websites that mimic the appearance of real sites, enticing victims to enter their information under the guise of security verification, account updates, or other pretexts.

Key Characteristics of Phishing:

  • Communication Method: Primarily through email.
  • Appearance: Uses official logos, language, and formatting to appear legitimate.
  • Targets: Can be sent to a wide audience or specifically targeted (spear phishing).

What is Smishing?

Smishing, a portmanteau of "SMS" and "phishing," is similar to phishing but utilizes text messages as the medium of attack. Smishing attempts are made via SMS or messaging apps, where scammers send messages pretending to be from reputable sources, such as banks, government agencies, or other trusted entities. These messages often prompt recipients to click on malicious links, call back a fraudulent phone number, or respond with personal information under various pretexts, including urgent alerts, prize winnings, or account issues.

Key Characteristics of Smishing:

  • Communication Method: Through SMS or messaging apps.
  • Urgency: Messages create a sense of urgency to prompt immediate action.
  • Innovation: Often includes shortened URLs or direct requests for personal information.

How to Protect Yourself

Recognize the Signs:

  • Be wary of unsolicited messages or emails that ask for personal information or direct you to websites for inputting such data.
  • Look out for messages that create a sense of urgency, pressuring you to act quickly.
  • Pay attention to the sender's details. In the case of emails, scrutinize the email address, not just the sender's name. For texts, be cautious of messages from unknown numbers or those that do not align with the official contact details of the purported organization.

Take Preventative Measures:

  • Use spam filters on your email accounts to help screen out potential phishing attempts.
  • Install security software on your devices and keep it updated to protect against malware that might be downloaded from malicious links.
  • Use NumLookup's reverse phone lookup feature to validate the identify of the caller. 
  • Enable two-factor authentication (2FA) for an extra layer of security on your online accounts, reducing the risk if your credentials are compromised.

Educate and Verify:

  • Educate yourself and others about the latest phishing and smishing tactics. Awareness is a powerful tool in cybersecurity.
  • Verify the authenticity of messages or emails by contacting the organization directly through official channels, rather than clicking on links or responding to the message itself.


While Phishing and Smishing share the common goal of tricking individuals into surrendering personal information, their methods of execution and communication mediums set them apart. By understanding these differences and staying vigilant, you can significantly reduce your risk of falling victim to these cyber threats. Remember, in the digital world, skepticism is a virtue. When in doubt, take the time to verify, and always prioritize the security of your personal information.