Spam text FAQ: What to do, what not to do and how to get less

Jan 15, 2024, 5:00 AM

Person on cellphone....

Here's a short introduction on how to handle spam text, from Kim Komando. (Pexels Photo)

(Pexels Photo)

Buzz, buzz! Nope, it’s not a message from a friend. It’s another scammer pretending to be anything from your bank to an old high school friend, usually with an obvious trap included. In 2022, Americans lost almost $330 million through text message scams alone.

There is a way to handle text spam, but many people make things worse instead of better. Here are the answers everyone with a phone (including growing kiddos) needs to know.

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Where are all these spam texts coming from?

Robocalls are decreasing, and scammers rely more on texts, which shot up over 12 billion monthly in 2023. Everyone is getting more of them. You may be targeted because:

  • Your phone number was part of a data theft, breach or leak at some point. These numbers get circulated in huge lists on the Dark Web and are occasionally snapped up by scammers for mass texting.
  • You’re part of a registry that was recently hacked. This could include lists of homeowners, bank account holders or app subscribers. Anything with a phone number included is fair game.
  • You’re part of a phishing attempt that automatically generates a ton of potential phone numbers and sends texts randomly.
  • Your phone or email was compromised by malware that dug into your contacts and sent fake texts that looked like they were from friends and family. Scary, but it happens.
  • You replied to a spam text (see below).

Can I block spammy texts permanently?

Maybe not entirely, but you can make a big difference in how many you receive. Do this to stop a new text storm:

  • Sign up for your phone provider’s pam-blocking protection. The major carriers have tools to identify, filter and prevent suspected nuisance numbers from calling or texting. Most require an extra fee to activate the caller ID service, but network-level blocking is free of charge across all the carriers.
  • See if your phone provider lets you Forward texts to “7726” (a.k.a. SPAM) to auto-block them. Most do, including Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T.
  • Sign up with the National Do Not Call Registry. Scammers don’t follow the rules, nor do they care about this list. Registering your number as an added layer of protection is still smart. Use the link above or call 1-888-382-1222 from any phone you want on the list.
  • Select the texter’s ID or number and look for an Info or Details section. You can usually find a way to block that number directly here.
  • Look in your message app Settings for a spam filter. On Android, you can find a Spam Protection feature. On iPhone, open Settings and tap Messages, then enable Filter Unknown Senders. Just know this might hide messages you want to receive, like one from your doctor’s office.

Should I answer a text and ask them to stop?

No! A hard and fast rule: Never reply to a spam text. That just confirms your number is active and you’ll start getting even more scammers hitting you up. And don’t try replying “STOP,” “NO” or anything else, even if that works on legitimate subscriptions.

Instead, block the phone number and mark the message as spam. Then, hit the delete button.

How do I make sure a text is legit?

It’s tricky, and there’s no one way. Instead, look for signs.

  • Legit texts have an official way to stop them, usually by texting STOP. (But scammers can imitate that, too, so be careful.)
  • Real messages also tend to come from 6-digit or 10-digit numbers.
  • If someone (like your boss) texts saying they got a new number, be very wary. Confirm through another means if you can — especially if they ask you to do something related to money.
  • Never trust financial, personal or security information you get over a text, including alerts about compromised accounts or reports about family members needing help. Always, always contact the service or person directly through official channels instead.

When you’ve got time: Stop by my guides for protecting against malware and scam apps to delete pronto!

Keep your tech-know going

My popular podcast is called “Kim Komando Today.” It’s a solid 30 minutes of tech news, tips, and callers with tech questions like you from all over the country. Search for it wherever you get your podcasts. For your convenience, hit the link below for a recent episode.

PODCAST PICK: $661K bank scam, malware targeting kids & FB Marketplace pro tips

Plus, I chat with Professor Scott Galloway about his views that Gen Z should be educated on mating dynamics — especially with sexbots on the rise. I’ll also show you how to spot phony retail sites, introduce a woman who turns her dating app matches into music and introduce you to ChatGPT Plus’s file analysis tool.

Check out my podcast “Kim Komando Today” on Apple, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast player.

Listen to the podcast here or wherever you get your podcasts. Just search for my last name, “Komando.”

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Spam text FAQ: What to do, what not to do and how to get less