Fighting Back Against Spam Text Messages

Fighting Back Against Spam Text Messages

Have you been getting unwanted text messages and you want to do something about it? You aren’t helpless in the battle against unwanted SMS messages, and there are several things you can to do stop them and to fight back.

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In reading the angry comments by those hit with spam text messages, there is a general theme that arises. People want to know how the spammer obtained their phone number and how they can  stop these texts from arriving at all.

How Did They Get My Number?
The first question is obviously difficult to answer. Sometimes if you fill out an online form and provide your cell phone number, you may have agreed to terms that allow text messages. The shadier companies will sell their list of cell phone numbers to hardcore spammers who will bombard everyone on the list with multiple “offers.” Once your cell number becomes part of a list being passed around by spammers, it’s hard to put a cork in it.

Though there isn’t much you can do once your number is in the hands of spammers, below are several things you can do to fight back against unwanted texts.

How to Fight Back 

1. Report it to 7726
I’d like to thank a commenter named Tom who deserves credit for giving me the heads up about this service in the article Target Scam Gift Card Text Message.
 There is a little-known service available to customers of AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, and Sprint (and possibly others) which allows you to report spam text messages to them. Simply forward the spam text to 7726. You’ll receive a response asking for the phone number of the message, which you will provide in a separate text. I tested the service out with AT&T and it appeared to work rather easily. I chose a text I received from and sent it to 7726. A moment later, I received a response:

ATT FREE MSG: Thanks for providing us with the content of an unwanted message. Now, reply with the sender’s phone number so we know who sent you this message.

I replied with 6143399268, and received the following response:

AT&T Free Message: Thank you, we appreciate your assistance.

2. Report it to the FCC
If you’re really determined to hit the spammers hard, you can file a complaint with the FCC in an online form known as 1088G, found here.  This is a rather detailed form, but it goes the extra mile in reporting spammers. It’s a bit daunting to answer such an extensive questionnaire about a single text message, especially when you are met with the following statement:

Fill in the blanks below and then click the “EXECUTE” box, to declare under penalty of perjury that the information you have provided is, to the best of your knowledge, true and correct.

I have to admit that the words “EXECUTE” and “PERJURY” in the same statement next to my name are a bit intimidating! But again, if you want to be proactive, this is a tool that is in place for that exact reason.

It should be noted that the FCC has clear rules regarding unwanted text messages:

FCC rules prohibit sending unwanted text messages to your wireless phone number if they are sent using an autodialer, or if you have placed that number on the national Do-Not-Call list.

Even if you have placed your wireless phone number on the national Do-Not-Call list, the TCPA does not protect you from receiving commercial messages sent to that number if:

you have given your prior consent to the sender, or;
you have an established business relationship with the sender.

3. Do Not Call Registry
I often hear that the Do Not Call Registry has little effect on spammers and telemarketers, but there’s still a good reason to be on there. If you file a complaint with the FCC, they will ask if you’re on the Do Not Call Registry. This also applies to text messages. In fact, if you aren’t on the Do Not Call Registry, some spam texts you receive will be legal! Should you or others decide to pursue the worst of these spammers, being on the Do Not Call Registry could help, and the FCC specifically references the Do Not Call Registry in its rules regarding text messages. Spam text messages that don’t originate from an autodialer are only illegal if you’re on the registry. It’s unclear what the legal definition of “autodialer” is in the case of text messages. “Autodialer” seems to be an antiquated term in regards to texts. Clearly someone is sending out mass text messages that would be impossible to do manually. It’s best to cover your bases and get on the registry.

Check to see if you are already registered on the Do Not Call Registry here.  If you haven’t already registered, do so – even if you don’t think it will help because in the long run, complaints filed with the FCC will have more weight if they are filed from numbers registered with the Do Not Call Registry.

4. Carrier Tools
Most of the major carriers have some tools in place to fight spam texts. For example, AT&T allows you to block all texts sent to you as an email, while T-Mobile allows you to block texts that contain specific keywords. It’s definitely worth the time to see what your carrier has to offer. If you can’t find it on their website, give them a call and ask them what options are available.

5. Block it with an app
Though smart phones have many apps in place for blocking numbers, this will prove to yield minimal results. The problem is, these spammers are texting from a pool of hundreds – perhaps thousands – of numbers. It’s unlikely that you’d get two texts from the same number anyway. I suggest trying Mr. Number, as that pulls from an extensive user-built block list.

6. Reply to the Text
This is probably the most debated option. Many people feel that responding with STOP or ENDNOW only telegraphs to the spammer that you’re a live person. This is definitely a valid argument. The FCC, however, encourages users to use any opt-out options included in the message. Whether or not to respond is up to you. If you feel that you may file a complaint in the future, then you probably should use their opt-out option to show the FCC you at least made the attempt and followed their instructions.

AT&T tells you to to respond to spam texts with “BLOCK” in the body. This will only block that number, but it also appears to work for short codes as well (I haven’t verified this yet).

The above list is a good start in fighting back against spam text messages. What methods have you used to fight back against unwanted texts?


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