Just about everyone I know has a cell phone today. And it seems like just about everyone I know has received a spam text message on their device at one time or another.
One report says that Americans received an unprecedented number of spam texts last year and lost more than $10 billion due to phone-related scams. I’m sure that’s one group call you don’t want to be a part of!
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?
It may be because of your online activity: websites where you’ve registered or bought something online.
Many companies sell your personal information. A customer may provide his or her email address and even a phone number for all kinds of things they want access to on the web. The next thing they know, they’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:
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 website of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to learn about more ways that scammers target unsuspecting people via text. In the meantime, here’s a rule of thumb 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 to 7726 (SPAM). Your wireless provider will then send you an automated message acknowledging receipt. In my case, T-Mobile replied, saying “We’ve got it from here.”
The spam message is then sent to a global security analysis center that tracks spam messages. Learn more about that here.
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 phone users’ requests to opt out or end correspondence when requested.
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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