We have all heard our mobile buzz, and spotted a text sitting in our inbox, only to realise it is a spam message:
"Congratulations, you have 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 lottery wins to false accident claims, spam text messages are becoming more and more of a problem - but there is a way to fight back.
How to spot spam messages
Some text messages that look like spam could actually be marketing or advertising messages that you have signed up to. For this reason, you need to be incredibly careful about whom you share your mobile number with.
Advertising messages can be annoying, but they tend to be easier to get rid off than spam. The first step is to identify if it is from a legitimate company or if it is spam.
Do not call the number or reply to it at this stage. Instead, check out the number to see if you can find the details of the person or business that sent you the message.
If a company name shows as the sender, it may be a marketing message
If it looks like a private mobile number, it is more likely to be spam
You can also try the following:
Type the number into a search engine to see what comes up
Enter the number on the PhonepayPlus number checker
Contact the customer services team of the company that the text is supposedly from
How to stop spam text messages
Block the number
The spam messages may come from a different number each time, meaning blocking numbers will not be enough.
Most smart phones will allow you to block incoming text messages from individual numbers. You should be able to find instructions for adding a number to your blocked list in your mobile handbook.
Adding the sender of any spam messages to your blocked listed should prevent you from receiving future messages from the same number.
Get your network provider involved
All the major mobile networks in the UK do their bit to help prevent spam text messages.
Before you delete a spam text message, forward it to your network provider so that they are able to identify the sender as a spammer and block the number.
The "spam report" numbers you need to use are:
Orange, Vodafone, O2, and T-Mobile: 7726
Make sure that the sender's number is included in the text you send so that it can be dealt with appropriately.
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 uphold information rights and data privacy for individuals. This means they will fight your corner against unscrupulous marketing and spam messages.
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
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
Do not 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.
Do not 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.
Never respond directly unless you are sure the number is legitimate, as it will notify the sender of the spam message that your mobile number is active, which 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.
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 are 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.