How to stop spam text messages

Spam texts are not only a minor irritation but also a menace that catches out even the savviest of mobile users. Here's how to stop spam texts dead in their tracks.

Updated on 18 May 2015.

Man phone outside angry

We've all heard our mobile buzz, spotted a text sitting in our inbox, only to realise it's a spam message:

"Congratulations you've won 5,000,000,000 in the Irish lotto prize pool fund - just send us a 100 processing fee to an untraceable Nigerian bank account and your money will be on the way!"

From lotto wins to false accident claims, spam text messages are becoming more and more of a problem - but there is a way to fight back.

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We look at how you can drastically cut out or even eliminate spam text messages so you can use your mobile without being hassled.

How to spot spam messages

Some of the spam text messages you receive could actually be marketing or advertising messages that you've signed up to directly or in directly. It's for this reason that you need to be incredibly careful about who you share your mobile number with.

While advertising messages can still be frustrating to receive, especially if you get sent several a day, they tend to be easier to get rid off than spam messages.

So, when you receive a spam text message the first step is to identify when it's from a legitimate company or whether it is spam.

Do not call the number or reply to it at this stage, even if the text advises you to reply. Instead you need to check out the number to see if you can find the sender details of the person or business that has sent you the message.

If the text displays a company name as the sender then it may be a marketing message (although you can't be certain), if it looks like a private mobile number then it's more likely to be spam.

While there's no infallible way to differentiate between advertising and spam messages, typing the number into a search engine to see what comes up or entering the number on the PhonepayPlus number checker is worth a try.

Contacting the customer services team of the company that the text is supposedly from is another way to find out if it's a legitimate marketing message.

How to stop spam text messages

1. Block the number

Most smart phones will allow you to block incoming text messages from individual numbers.

Adding the sender of any spam messages to your blocked listed should prevent you from receiving future messages from the same number.

However, you may find that the sender of the spam messages comes from a different number each time making this a worthwhile but less than fool proof method of stopping spam.

You should be able to find instructions for adding a number to your blocked list in your mobile handbook.

2. Get your network provider involved

All the major mobile networks in the UK do their bit to help prevent spam text messages.

So before you delete a spam text message you should forward it to your network provider so that they are able to identify the sender as a spammer and block the number.

Each network has a different 'spam report' number that you will need to forward your spam texts to.

These numbers are free for Orange, T-Mobile, Vodafone, Three and O2 pre pay customers, post pay O2 customers will be charged at their standard rate.

The numbers you need to use are:

  • Orange, Vodafone, O2, and T-Mobile: 7726
  • Three: 37726

You should make sure that the sender's number is included in the text you send so that it can be dealt with appropriately.

3. Complain to the Information Commissioner's Office

If you continue to receive spam messages from an unknown source you can inform the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO).

The ICO's mission is to "uphold information rights in the public interest" including promoting data privacy for individuals, essentially meaning they will fight your corner against unscrupulous marketing and spam messages.

You can complain directly to the ICO by downloading and completing this ICO survey.

4. Check your bill

Several people are finding that they are being charged for receiving spam text messages - sometimes anywhere up to 5 a message!

This can quickly make your bills rocket, so make sure to check each bill and report these premium spam messages to your network provider to stop them as soon as possible.

How to prevent spam text messages

1. Guard you phone number

Your mobile phone number is a valuable piece of information and something that marketing companies and spam messengers alike are more and more keen to get a hold of.

Avoid giving out your mobile number when registering for websites online and don't post your number on any internet site where it could be picked up and passed on without your knowledge.

If you do need to provide a company with your mobile number, you should check carefully how your number will be shared.

In most cases you can refuse permission for the company to share your details with third parties, so make sure you tick or un-tick the "share details" option when filling in registration forms.

2. Don't reply to spam messages

While legitimate marketing and advertising text messages can be stopped by texting STOP or STOP ALL to each message, if you receive a spam message replying in this way is a bad idea.

This is because it will notify the sender of the spam message that your mobile number is active and in use and could lead to you receiving more messages.

In fact, many spam text messages will include a sentence telling you to reply STOP to cancel further messages in an attempt to trick you into replying.

So never respond directly unless you're sure the number is legitimate Instead you should add the telephone number to you blocked senders list and delete the message without replying - instructions on how to do this should be included in your mobile phone manual.

How to stop marketing messages

Marketing messages are different to spam text messages as the companies sending them must stop if instructed to do so.

The easiest way to put an end to unwanted marketing text messages is to reply STOP or STOP ALL to the text - although you should only do this if you're sure it's from a legitimate company.

If you continue to receive messages after doing this you can complain via the PhonepayPlus website.

What about the Telephone Preference Service?

You can also register your mobile phone number with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS).

However, this will only limit sales calls and will have no direct impact on the number of marketing or spam texts you receive.

To register your mobile number, visit the TPS website.

Written by at money.co.uk

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Spending with a credit card offers extra protection from scammers and fraudsters with Section 75 cover. Compare credit cards to find one that suits how you spend.
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