How to Prevent Cell Phone Text Messaging Spam

June 20, 2011

Gadgets How-To

Oh spam, how I hate thee. Email spam is bad enough. Email spam may carry viruses or sordid images or be just plain annoying. But a simple “delete” takes care of it. Email spam, while annoying and time-consuming, costs you nothing.

Cell phone text messaging spam is another matter. Most of us do not subscribe to the expensive unlimited text messaging plans, so we are charged by the text or pay for a certain number of texts. And unfortunately, you pay for every text you receive, whether it’s legitimate or not.

While it may be impossible to prevent 100 percent of text messaging spam (unless you want to disable text messaging altogether), you can reduce you chances of getting spam. Here’s how:

1. Never reply or “unsubscribe” to spam.

Most spam texts are created by spammers on computers and sent to random cell phone numbers. NEVER respond to a spam message. This is like raising a red flag in front of a spammer. They will see that they got a “live one” and continue sending you spam. (Now, WHY spammers do this eludes me. WHY would they continue to send their crap to people who obviously hate it? Do they really think we will buy their product?!).

2. Use a free texting service.

Disable texting on your cell phone provider account, and sign up for free texting on your smartphone. Some companies that offer free texting service are TextFree, TextPlus, TextNow, and Messagy Lite. Check your apps store for text apps. This is one of the main reasons why I love smartphones– the apps. You can find everything from a “punching” app to a barcode scanner to instant weather. Very cool!

Anyway, you will probably have more control over your new number with the free texting service. And even if you do get spam, at least you won’t get charged for it. I’ve used a number of text iPhone apps for several months, and I have never received spam.

3. Manage your text messaging preferences at your cell phone provider’s website.

You may have to register for this service even if you already have an online account at your wireless provider; I had to.

For AT&T:
Log in to mymessages.wireless.att.com, or register if this is your first time. Look for “Preferences.” You’ll see options for text messaging.

For Verizon:
Log in to vtext.com. Go to Text Messaging > Preferences > Text Blocking.

For T-Mobile:
Log on to t-mobile.com and click Communication Tools to view text message blocking options.

For Sprint:
Log in to sprint.com. Go to My Online Tools > Communication Tools > Text Messaging. Select “Compose a Text Message.” Go to Text Messaging Options and then click “Settings & Preferences.” Create a blacklist of phone numbers, email addresses, and domains to block.

For Tracfone:
Tracfone offers no customer preferences for stopping text spam. One of the reasons I got rid of Tracfone after being with them for 6 years was the ton of spam and wrong numbers I got all the time (even with brand new numbers). You can prevent getting charged for spam texts with your Tracfone– just delete the message and DO NOT open it. You will not be charged for the text.

Just a little heads up– when I tried to register for this service at AT&T, I had a ton of trouble. I find it very odd that you even HAVE to register a new account for this service– you’d think it would be part of your regular cell phone online account. Hmm. When I went through all the steps to register, my password that I had JUST created for the account wouldn’t work. I was locked out of my account twice (forcing me to wait several hours between tries) because I attempted to log in with my data. Finally, I clicked “forgot password,” and the password that the site had for me was only half of the password I’d created (the first 7 digits). I don’t know why AT&T makes it so difficult to access your text messaging preferences….. but caveat emptor.

Of course, cell phone companies have a vested interest in text messaging. The more texts you get, the more money it costs you. I tend to think that this is why cell phone companies are not very eager to stop the flood of text spam. Just my opinion.

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About The Older Geek

Rebecca Mecomber has been a professional blogger and freelance writer since 2007. Her work and opinions on technology, travel, blogging, home improvement, and media regulation has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Salon.com, USAToday, eHow.com, iMedia.com, Chron.com, SF Gate, and the Associated Press. She lives in New York with her husband, four kids and passel of pets.

View all posts by The Older Geek

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