As prevalent as spam messages have become, recent statistics show that they are getting worse.
One report says that Americans received an unprecedented 225.7 billion spam texts last year, a 157% increase from the previous year.
This article will lead you through some steps you can take to spot a spam text message and will offer advice on what you can do about them. I’ll also go over how to recognize the difference between spam and scam text messages.
Why Am I Getting Spam Text Messages?
You provide your email address or phone number when making a purchase online or registering for an event. The next thing you know your information has been sold and you’re getting spam texts.
But it could be completely random. If you’ve got a cell phone, then you’re “eligible” for spam texts.
Is It Spam or a Scam?
If you don’t recognize the source of a text message, it’s safest just to go ahead and assume it’s a scam. Replying to suspicious texts can lead to a number of bad outcomes including:
To be safe, money expert Clark Howard says he doesn’t click on text links sent from phone numbers he doesn’t recognize.
“When you receive a text and you don’t know the sender or even if you do know the sender and there’s a link in there they want you to click on, I wouldn’t click on the link unless it’s somebody you absolutely know with certainty.”
How To Recognize Spam Text Messages
If you get a suspicious text message, here are some signs that it’s likely spam:
- It asks you to give some personal information.
- It claims that you have an “invoice” for a transaction that you know you didn’t authorize.
- It claims that you have a package delivery when you haven’t ordered anything.
- The message is filled with bad grammar or punctuation errors.
See the Federal Trade Commission’s website to learn about more ways that scammers target unsuspecting people via text. In the meantime, here’s a rule you should always remember:
If you get a suspicious text but think it might be from a legitimate source, don’t reply to the text. Instead, contact the person or company using a phone number or website that you’ve confirmed is authentic. Never use the contact information in the text message.
If you have reason to believe that the entity texting you is up to no good, not only should you not reply to that text, you also should consider reporting it.
How To Report Suspicious Text Messages
Here are three ways you can report them.
1. With Your Phone
If you have an iPhone, you can report junk iMessages by using the Report Junk link under the message.
On an Android phone, you have to tap and hold the message you want to report and follow the prompts to Tap Block > Report Spam > OK. (Steps may vary depending on which Android version you have).
2. To Your Carrier
You can also copy and paste the suspicious message and text it to 7726 (SPAM). Your wireless provider will then send you an automated message acknowledging receipt. In my case, T-Mobile replied, saying “We’ll take it from here.”
The spam message is then sent to a global security analysis center that tracks spam messages.
3. To the Government
You can also report spam text messages online to the U.S. government, specifically the FTC. Visit ftc.gov/complaint. From there, all you have to do is select the appropriate category and file the complaint.
How To Stop Spam Text Messages
There are scams, and then there’s plain old spam. Maybe you signed up for a service or bought a product online, and now the vendor is sending you texts you didn’t ask for.
One quick way to eliminate those unsolicited text messages is by replying STOP or QUIT or UNSUBSCRIBE. I’ve done this quite a few times — and it’s worked.
Sometimes, directions on how to get spam texts to stop are included in the message itself.
This method works because the Cellular Telephone Industries Association (CTIA) requires text message programs to acknowledge and act on requests to opt out or end correspondence.
That means if you get spam texts from Macy’s, The Home Depot or another legit business, the company should quickly honor your request to stop texting you.
I do want to acknowledge that there are some sources that believe you should never respond directly to any spam text message. The reasoning is that, if you text back, you confirm that you’re a “live” target.
Spam text messages aren’t just costing you time and attention, they can cost you money. That’s why it’s important to stop them as soon as you can.
One more thing you can do is block the sender’s number. That way, you won’t have to worry about receiving messages from that particular number ever again. Here’s how to block a number on an iPhone and an Android.
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