They’re about as welcome as robot calls and junk mail — spam text messages.
They show up as unwanted and unexpected text messages on our phone screens. That’s aggravating enough, but it gets worse. Whoever is sending you a spam text message is usually trying to defraud you.
Most spam text messages aren’t coming from another phone. They’re usually originating from a computer and being delivered to your phone — at no cost to the sender — via an email address or an instant messaging account.
Don’t despair. There are steps you can take to reduce unwanted text messages and help prevent them from showing up on your phone and other mobile devices.
Spam text messages dos and don’ts
It’s illegal to send unsolicited, or spam, commercial text messages to a wireless device unless the sender gets your permission, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Besides being painfully annoying, spam texts pose the risk of exposing you to identity theft, installing malware on your device, and stealing your information.
Here are a few tips that may help you deal with spam texts.
Don’t reply directly to any spam text message
Directly replying to a spam text message lets a spammer know that your number is genuine. What happens next? They can sell your phone number to other spammers who might bombard you with promises of free gifts and product offers.
Do treat your personal information like it’s cash
Spam text messages may lure you into disclosing personal information like how much money you make, how much you owe the bank, your Social Security number, and credit card details. Most legitimate companies do not request personal information like passwords, account details, and other personal details via text messages. When in doubt, look up the company phone number, call them, and verify if a legitimate request was made. Don’t call the number sent in the text message.
Don’t click on any links in the text message
Clicking on a link in a spam text message could install malware that can collect information from your phone. It can take you to spoof sites that look real, but are designed to steal your information. Malware can also slow down your cell phone’s performance by taking up space on your phone’s memory. Once the spammer has your information, it can be sold to marketers or, worse, identity thieves.
It can also lead to unwanted charges on your cell phone bill. Your wireless carrier may charge you for receiving a text message, regardless of whether you requested it.
Do review your cell phone bill regularly
It’s smart to check your phone bill regularly to make sure it reflects the correct amount. If there are charges that don’t look right, call the phone company and find out if you’re receiving or sending spam messages from your phone.
Do check your phone’s settings
Your phone probably has built-in features to help block unwanted calls and text messages. Type in “block” using your device’s search function.
For Android phones, look for the three dots on the top right-hand corner of your text. Click on it and select “People” and “Options.” Next, select “Block” to stop receiving spam text messages from that number.
For iPhones, click on the “i” in the top right-hand corner of the spam text. Next, click on the number and select “Block.”
Do place your cell phone number on the National Do Not Call Registry
Adding your phone number to the Federal Trade Commission’s National Do Not Call Registry lets you opt you out of receiving most telemarketing calls. If you receive an unwanted call after your number is on the registry for 31 days, you can report it to the FTC.
Do check to see if your carrier offers a call-blocking service
Most major carriers offer call-blocking services or plans that let you block calls from unknown numbers for a specific period of time. You can also see if one of the third-party call-blocking apps and services will work with your carrier’s wireless service.
Do report spam texts to your wireless carrier
Send any suspicious or spam messages to 7726, which spells SPAM, so your carrier can investigate. Don’t worry, messages forwarded to 7726 are free and don’t count against your text plan.
How to report spam text messages to AT&T. Forward a spam text message to 7726. AT&T will reply with a text asking for the phone number of the spam text. Reply with that number. AT&T will launch an investigation and prevent other customers from receiving spam from the reported number. Or you can fill out AT&T’s online spam reporting form.
How to report spam text messages to Sprint. Send the unwanted spam text to 7726. Sprint will respond by asking for the number. After you provide the number, Sprint will respond with an acknowledgement of receiving it and will launch an investigation.
How to report spam text messages to T-Mobile. Forward the message to 7726. T-Mobile will ask you for the number the spam text was sent from. Send the information to T-Mobile. T-Mobile will do an investigation and take actions to stop the sender from sending more spam messages to other T-Mobile customers.
How to report spam text messages to Verizon. Forward a spam message on your Verizon phone to 7726. Verizon will send you a reply asking for the number where the spam message originated. After you provide that information, you will receive a message from Verizon thanking you. Verizon will then launch an investigation and prevent other customers from receiving spam from this number.
When it comes to text messages and security, using a little common sense and making the most of your phone’s and carrier’s privacy features can help you handle spam messages more efficiently.