File photo. (REUTERS/Vivek Prakash)
If you thought robocalls were annoying, get ready. Spammy text messages promising free gift cards, low credit card interest rates, debt relief services, or other scams are the next nuisance taking over our phones. The goal is the same, though: steal your money.
While the phone carriers are slow to stop the onslaught of robocalls, there are proactive steps you can take. Tap or click here for 7 ways to stop robocalls now.
Unfortunately, stopping the onslaught of robotexts is up to you. The process starts with understanding how telemarketers, hustlers, and other outfits get your cellphone number in the first place.
How companies get your cellphone number
Social media sites sell your data – Sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Google keep track of your online activity and provide that information to advertisers. If your phone number is public on social media, assume it’s in various marketing companies’ databases.
You called an 800, 888 or 900 number – When you call phone numbers with these prefixes, your cellphone number is collected by an Automatic Number Identification (ANI) system. In addition to identifying and storing your number, the ANI system can match it with other digital data associated with you.
You did it – There are many valid reasons that you’d give your number to companies. You fill out a sign-up form, contest entry, or enroll in an in-store rewards program. Whatever the reason, you willingly hand over your cell number, and this practice allows for your number to end up in the wrong hands.
You didn’t do it – Many telemarketing firms rely on automatic dialing devices that are capable of discovering and dialing all landline and cellphone numbers, including those that are unlisted.
How to block robocalls and spam messages
Robotexts are common now, and many people treat them as a necessary evil. “I have a smartphone,” they think. “Receiving unwanted messages is just one of the sacrifices of having one.” Whatever you do, do not reply and do not click anything in the text. There are several tactics for fighting back, and doing so helps everyone. The more we resist robotexts, the less likely their success.
1. Tell them to stop
Many legitimate companies offer you the chance to opt-out of receiving messages from them. Be careful, though: scammers use this same technique to lure you into replying STOP to their messages, which can help verify you and your number. A quick Google search can usually confirm that a textable number is legit.
2. Block numbers
Blocking numbers is easy to do. That said, precise instructions may vary according to the manufacturer, model, and operating system of your mobile device. Also, remember that the same operation may try texting you from a different number. Argh.
On an iPhone, open the text from the number you wish to block and tap on the sender’s number. Click on the info (i) icon. Under the Details screen, click on the phone number, choose Block this Caller and Block Contact.
On an Android device, open your phone app and tap on the three-dot icon in the upper right corner and choose Settings. Tap on Block numbers. You will find several options including unknown callers, recent call, or from your contact list. Choose or manually enter a number you wish to block.
3. Be a tattletale
Reporting a robotext or spam message to your cellular carrier is a great step to take in the fight against robotexts and spam messages. Copy and forward the original text to 7726 (SPAM), free of charge. You can use this method if you are a Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, or Bell subscriber.
4. File an official complaint
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), it is illegal to send unsolicited commercial email messages to wireless devices without your consent. This act includes text messages to your cellphone, and it’s further unlawful to send unwanted texts from an auto-dialer.
The only two exceptions to this law are transactional or relationship type messages, or non-commercial messages such as political surveys or fundraising messages. If you receive unwanted commercial text messages, file a complaint using the FTC complaint assistant.
5. Use your phone’s secret setting
This setting isn’t exactly a secret. It’s so obscure you probably never thought of it. You can help eliminate spam messages and robotexts by filtering out spam on your mobile device.
Filtering out spam on an iPhone is simple. Go to Settings and tap on Messages. Scroll down to Filter Unknown Senders and toggle the setting on.
If you are an Android user, open your phone app and tap on the three-dot icon and choose Settings. Under Settings, enable Caller ID & Spam.
6. Get some extra help
There are several third-party apps to help you against spammers. Two popular apps, Nomorobo and RoboKiller, are both available for iOS and Android. Although each requires a subscription that costs a few dollars a month, they are efficient at blocking and filtering suspected robotexts and spam messages.
Hopefully, we can put a stop to robotexts much quicker than anyone did with robocallers.
What digital lifestyle questions do you have? Call Kim’s national radio show and tap or click here to find it on your local radio station. You can listen to or watch the Kim Komando Show on your phone, tablet, television or computer. Or tap or click here for Kim’s free podcasts.
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Learn about all the latest technology on the Kim Komando Show, the nation's largest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today's digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at Komando.com.