How to Report Spam Text Messages
Most emails are set up with automatic filters to identify and send spam messages to a separate “junk” folder, bypassing the in-box altogether. Spam email messages are considered unsolicited, irrelevant, and sent to the recipient without their permission. Unfortunately, spam is no longer confined to email messaging. In fact, many tech scammers are utilizing spam text messages as a means of extorting and stealing personal and financial information as well as direct monetary funds from cell phone users.
What Are Spam Text Messages?
In general, the term “spam” applies to digital communication that is primarily sent through bulk messaging and is unwanted and unsolicited. Spam messages may appear in the form of:
- Marketing gimmicks
- Contest or prize winnings
- Refund offers
- Account verifications
- Threats or other attempts at intimidation
These types of scams are often called “phishing” and used to coerce phone users into providing personal data such as social security numbers, credit card numbers, usernames, passwords, or PINs. Even worse, these spam messages may appear to be from a legitimate business, financial institution, or government agency. Often scammers are able to impersonate these entities in a convincing way, causing unsuspecting message recipients to become victims of identity and/or monetary theft and various other forms of fraud.
There are some ways to determine if a text message is likely to be spam or not. Marketing messages tend to originate from a six-digit short code number or a greater than ten-digit commercial long code number. Any text messages offering rewards, prizes, or anything for “free” should be regarded as spam. In addition, text messages that claim a sense of urgency or demand immediate response should also be considered suspicious and treated as spam.
It’s essential to remember that government agencies such as the IRS and financial institutions such as banks do not conduct official business through text messaging. Therefore, any text message claiming to represent these entities is undoubtedly spam and should be reported.
Why Report Spam Text Messages?
Like most digital scams, spam text messages are designed to get access to people’s personally identifiable information (PII), financial information, or money sent directly to the scammers. This puts the recipients of spam text messages at risk for identity theft, financial loss, and other forms of fraud. The results of such victimization can take years to rectify, often at great emotional and economic costs.
Even if phone users are savvy enough to detect them, dealing with spam text messages of any kind can drain both time and resources. They are at the very least an interruption, and sometimes can be very unsettling. Therefore, it’s essential to not only protect yourself from such spam but also report it as a means of protecting others.
For your own protection, if you receive a suspicious text, you should not reply under any circumstances. You should also never click on links that appear in a spam text message, as these links may initiate malware that affects your phone. You can block numbers that send spam text messages and there are some spam blocking apps that you can install on mobile devices.
However, independently deleting, ignoring, or blocking spam text messages doesn’t have the wide impact that reporting them can. Reporting these marketing ploys or phishing scams can lead to wider protections, investigations, and perhaps halt them at their source.
How to Report Spam Text Messages
Thankfully, there are ways to report spam text messages when you receive them. First, phone users can report these messages by calling their personal mobile service provider. Taking a screenshot of the message or noting other information such as the source number, date and time of delivery, wording, etc., is helpful to provide specific information about the potential scam. In addition, most messaging apps feature an option for reporting or filtering spam or “junk” messages right through the phone.
Several mobile carriers are now participating in 7726 (SPAM). This free service allows phone users to report spam messages by forwarding them through text to the number 7726. Spam recipients can copy the message and forward it to this number with the goal of helping participating carriers filter such spam messages on a wider scale across time.
Another option for reporting phishing or other text message scams is to alert the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov/complaint. On this site, you can opt to file a complaint for receiving unwanted text messages.
All these methods of reporting spam text messages do take time and effort on the part of individuals. However, reporting them increases the chances that these scams will be filtered or stopped, which enhances the protection of people against these scammers. It also lowers the risk that others will become victims of identity theft, monetary theft, or other types of fraud.
What to Do If You Are Victim of Spam Text Messaging
If you respond to a spam text message, unfortunately this will alert scammers that they have reached an active number. As a result, you may be flooded with spam messages and put your PII at risk of being compromised. If you have clicked on any link appearing in a spam text message, you may have opened your phone to risk of malware that may also compromise your personal data.
Many people feel embarrassed to have made the mistake of falling for a scam. However, potential victims of identity theft or other fraudulent crimes must take immediate action as soon as they are aware of this risk. Therefore, if you are a victim of spam text messaging, it’s important to report it as soon as possible.
Other proactive measures in these cases include diligently checking your phone bill for unknown charges as well as credit reports and bank statements for unusual activity. Changing your mobile phone number as well as usernames and passwords for online accounts may also be beneficial. Overall, it’s necessary to recognize that scammers will use almost any means necessary of accessing people’s PII and/or financial information. Understanding how to recognize spam text messaging and how to report it lessens the risk that these scammers will be successful.