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How to Block Spam Texts
November 6, 2021
Reading time: 7 minutes
Spam text messages are frustrating, persistent, and may even cost you money. These irritating interruptions can violate your legal rights in certain situations, and at the very least they create a nagging nuisance. But don’t worry. There are some simple steps you can take to rid yourself of spam texts forever.
The most powerful weapon in your arsenal is the simplest. Filter unknown senders in your phone settings, and you’ll never get another spam text again. You can also use a spam text blocking app or your wireless carrier’s spam-blocking tool.
Learn how to block spam texts fast with our guide.
Why am I getting spam text messages?
You receive spam text messages because they work. SMS marketing messages enjoy a shockingly high read-rate of 97%. To a marketer, that’s ROI gold. But you also get spam texts because your phone number was shared somewhere on the web – usually on Facebook, on a website, or in an online form.
Spam texts can cost you money
In some situations and with some carriers, receiving spam texts can add to your monthly bill. For instance, AT&T charges $0.20 per message as part of its prepaid plan, for both incoming and outgoing messages. If you receive 100 spam texts in a given month, you’d pay $40 in that payment period – just for spam texts.
Most of us don’t receive that many spam texts, and even if we did, they’d likely fall under a monthly plan balance. The only way to know for sure if unwanted text messages are costing you money is to call your carrier and review your bill.
Are spam texts illegal?
Spam texts are illegal, per the Federal Trade Commission. Laws adopted by the FTC make it illegal to send unsolicited text messages to any wireless device. You can (and should) report spam texts when you get them. The trouble with reporting spam SMS messages is it takes time.
If you do have the time to report a spam text (or you’re getting lots of them from the same number), scroll down to the bottom of this article for info on where and how to file a report.
How to stop getting spam texts
The goal when it comes to mobile phone spam is stopping the spam texts. It turns out there’s a quick and painless way to do it, along with a few other methods that are slightly more difficult, but still effective. Here’s how to get rid of spam texts.
1. Filter unknown senders
By far the easiest way to block spam texts, you can set up your phone to not receive any text messages from unknown senders. This is a great option for most smartphone users, because it still lets in every text from your contacts.
The only downside to this option is that some users prefer to allow messages from unknown senders. For everyone else, simply adding a contact for anyone you want to allow through your firewall eliminates the problem.
You may occasionally miss the kind of text where someone says, “Hi Sarah, it’s me, Bob, from high school,” but most people won’t notice any inconvenience from using this technique.
Here’s how to block unknown text senders:
For iPhone: Go to Settings > Messages, then scroll down to Filter Unknown Senders and turn it on.
For Android: Open your Phone app, tap More > Settings > Blocked numbers, and turn on Unknown.
2. Use your wireless carrier’s anti-spam text tool
If you’re wondering how to stop spam text messages without blocking all unknown senders, there’s an easy way. Some wireless carriers provide tools to help you block spam texts and calls. Using your carrier’s spam-blocking tool often involves downloading an app or upgrading your phone plan to add the spam text filter directly to your incoming calls.
Here’s a list of the spam-text-blocker services for the top four wireless carriers:
AT&T Call Protect: This is AT&T’s custom cellphone app that monitors your identity, blocks suspicious websites, and blocks unwanted texts and callers. The spam blocking is free, but premium features cost $3.99 per month.
Verizon Call Filter: This app filters out spam and shuts down offending texts as they come in, straight from your phone’s calling platform. You can easily whitelist numbers, report spam texts, and block pesky calls from fake “in-the-neighborhood” numbers.
T-Mobile Scam ID, Scam Block, Name ID: Scam Shield is built-in, free protection for Sprint and T-Mobile customers. It uses AI-based monitoring to spot and thwart spam texts and calls, plus caller ID that applies to anyone – even those not in your contact list.
U.S. Cellular Call Guardian: This handy system uses automatic caller ID and spam text blocking. Plus, it comes with a free app to stop spam texts and robocalls, so it’s easier to report them. For $3.99 per month, you can customize your setup, like choosing different risk levels for incoming calls and spam messages.
3. Use a spam text blocking app
There are several good spam-blocking apps on the market, in both the AppStore and Google Play. The allure of using an app to block spam is that, in theory, an app blocks only spam texts, not texts from unknown numbers you may want to receive.
The Spam Blocker app is top-of-the-crop for Android. It’s an award-winning app with millions of downloads and a 4-star rating from 70,000+ users. It lets you stem the flow of unsolicited texts based on number, keywords, and other rules you can customize. It’s also based on machine learning, so it gets better over time.
For iPhone, try the RoboKiller app. It claims to eliminate 95% of unwanted text messages, and boasts more than 11 million downloads, with a 4.5-star rating from more than 320,000 reviewers. As a bonus, it also blocks pesky robocalls and lets you report spammers quickly, directly from the app.
4. Block spam numbers natively
You can block individual spam numbers without any apps or extra settings, straight from your phone’s calling interface. On an iPhone, open your call history and click the little circled “i” icon to the right of the number. Scroll down and click “Block this Caller.”
On Android, open your phone app and tap More > Call history > the number, and Block / report spam. The trouble with this method is that spammers know about call blocking, and they often just switch to spam texting from a different number.
5. Don’t reply to or engage with SMS spam
For many, this step may go without saying, but you should never reply to texts from spammers. Never click a link in a spam text, answer a spam text, or share any personal info with an unknown texter.
For instance, here’s a common spam text you may have received: “AT&T Free Msg: Latest bill processed. Thanks, Martha! Here’s a little freebie for you: e6dsa.xyz/MjagVpAP3g.”
The trouble is, if you click the link, you’ll visit a site with a phony login window. If you log in, the scammers will have your account info, which they’ll use to hack your account.
6. Put your number in the Do Not Call Registry
People have mixed feelings about the federal Do Not Call Registry. You may have entered your phone number into the registry in the past, then noticed you still get plenty of spam calls and texts. But adding your number is still a smart step to take, especially as new legislation arises to curb spam texts and calls.
It’s easy to add your number. Just visit www.donotcall.gov, or call 888-382-1222 from the phone you want to register. The FTC estimates that within 31 days, you’ll receive fewer spam calls and texts.
7. Report spam text messages
If you don’t choose to report spam texts with a dedicated spam-blocker app, you can still report them manually. It’s a bit tedious, but reporting unwanted texts is socially responsible and effective.
To report spam texts you received on an iPhone, just click the Report Junk link beneath the message. If you don’t see that link, it’s because the message is an SMS instead of an iMessage. In this case, forward the spam text message to 7726 (SPAM). All wireless carriers use this number to report spam texts to the FTC.
For Android phones, you can report spam texts by touching and holding the conversation in your messages app. Then, tap Block > Report spam > OK. As with iPhone, you can also forward the message to 7726, and your carrier will report it to the FTC.
Spam texts are more than just an annoyance. They can increase your cell phone bill, and they’re a convenient backdoor for hackers to get their hands on personal information so they can access your accounts.
To protect yourself from spam texts, start by filtering SMS messages from unknown senders. You can also block spam text with apps, and you should consider adding your number to the Do Not Call Registry.
About the Author: Tom Gerencer is a contributing writer for HP Tech Takes. Tom is an ASJA journalist, career expert at Zety.com, and a regular contributor to Boys' Life and Scouting magazines. His work is featured in Costco Connection, FastCompany, and many more.
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