Forbidden SMS Content
  • 16 Feb 2024
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Forbidden SMS Content

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Article Summary

Forbidden Content

SMS is a highly regulated channel and is subject to stringent rules, regulations, and carrier requirements. Certain message content is prohibited and wireless carriers will reject SMS and MMS messages containing prohibited content by default. Other use cases are subject to additional requirements, like age-gating procedures. If your business sends messages containing any of the types of prohibited content listed below, SMS may not be the appropriate channel to reach your customer base. Please note that these forbidden use cases are not only related to the content of the message but also the business type itself.


SMS Prohibited Content

The following message categories are prohibited for SMS and MMS:

  • High-risk financial services
  • Third-party lead generation
  • Debt collection and forgiveness
  • “Get rich quick” schemes or Multi-level marketing
  • Illegal substances
  • Gambling
  • Sex, hate, alcohol, firearms, and tobacco (SHAFT)

Below, we discuss these categories in more detail.


High-risk financial services
  • Payday loans
  • Short term high-interest loans
  • Third-party auto loans
  • Third-party mortgage loans
  • Student loans
  • Cryptocurrency

“Third-party” means originating from any party other than the one which will service the loan.

SMS messages featuring financial investment advice or tips, as well as information on loans and refinancing options, are prohibited. Carriers also prohibit messages with links to donation sites.

Legitimate financial institutions may use SMS in accordance with certain restrictions, and often leverage text alerts for suspicious card activity, appointment reminders, and other transactional messages.

Third-party lead generation services
  • Companies that buy, sell, or share consumer information.

Buying, selling, or sharing of consumer data is strictly prohibited. The business that obtained consent is the only business authorized to send SMS. 

“Cold” outreach is the solicitation of business from potential customers who have had no prior contact with the business and is strictly prohibited.

Debt collection or forgiveness
  • Third-party debt collection
  • Debt consolidation
  • Debt reduction
  • Credit repair programs

Almost all debt consolidation and forgiveness efforts are prohibited for SMS and MMS.

Regarding debt collection, the business owed the debt can send payment reminders to late payers, personalized messages with account details, and follow up on payment confirmations. However, a third party cannot attempt to collect the debt for you via SMS and MMS.

"Get rich quick” schemes or Multi-level marketing
  • Work-from-home programs
  • Risk investment opportunities
  • “Get rich quick," "build your wealth," and "financial independence" offerings
  • Multi-level marketing, network marketing and pyramid schemes

Multi-level marketing (MLM) products, services, or content commonly associated with unsolicited commercial messages (spam) are prohibited.

This is different from outreach about employment as a result of compliant opt-in practices, messages from brokerages to their members, investment news alerts, or other investment-related messages.

Illegal substances
  • Marijuana/Cannabis
  • Prescription drugs
  • Vaping
Cannabis is federally illegal in the United States. Cannabis businesses will not be permitted to use SMS/MMS messaging in the US, regardless of message content.
CBD is federally legal, but is not legal in some US states, so US carriers do not permit messaging related to CBD.
Offers for drugs that cannot be sold over-the-counter in the US/Canada are forbidden.
  • Casino apps
  • Gambling websites
While gambling traffic is prohibited on Toll Free, it is allowed on Short Code, or Long Code, as long as proper age gating procedures are in place.
"S.H.A.F.T." use cases
  • Sex
  • Hate
  • Alcohol **
  • Firearms **
  • Tobacco *

* While Tobacco traffic is prohibited on Toll Free, it is allowed on Short Code, or Long Code, as long as proper age gating procedures are in place.

** Firearms and Alcohol traffic is allowed on Toll Free, Short Code, and Long Code, as long as proper age gating procedures are in place.

Vaping-related traffic is prohibited.



SHAFT is a handy acronym to help you remember types of content which is either forbidden or subject to special rules.

S: Sexually inappropriate content

H: Hate speech or profanity

A: Alcohol

F: Firearms, and depictions or endorsements of violence

T: Tobacco (including vaping), or endorsement of illegal or illicit drugs, including marijuana and cannabis

In addition to the above, the promotion of gambling is not allowed.

Non-Compliance Fines

T-Mobile is now enforcing non-compliance fines for messages containing prohibited content. If T-Mobile detects any messages that violate the tiers listed below, they will issue a non-compliance fine and Mogli’s messaging partners will immediately block the offending messages. 

Because, sending this type of content breaches
Mogli’s Acceptable Use Policy, Mogli will pass these fines on to the sending organization. These fines include, but are not limited to:

  • Tier 1: $2,000: phishing (including simulated phishing sent for security testing or similar purposes), smishing, and social engineering
    • Social Engineering is a technique used to manipulate someone into sharing private information, like passwords or credit card numbers. 
  • Tier 2: $1,000: illegal content (content must be legal federally and in all 50 states)
  • Tier 3: $500: all other violations in commercial messaging including but not limited to, SHAFT (sex, hate, alcohol, firearms, and tobacco) that do not follow federal and state law and regulations (e.g. age-gate).

These non-compliance fines apply to violations across any A2P messaging product (SMS/MMS short code, toll-free, and 10DLC) that are sent to your contacts over the T-Mobile network. For more information, review T-Mobile’s Code of Conduct Section 5: Prohibited Campaign Content.

Note: This information is not legal advice. You should consult with your legal counsel to make sure that your SMS program and message content comply with applicable laws.

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