December 6, 2017

Spam texts 101: Your complete guide to stopping spam via SMS messages

Spam texts 101: Your complete guide to stopping spam via SMS messages

Every year, Americans receive more than 4.5 billion spam texts — that's more spam texts than there are people in the U.S., China, India, Russia, and the whole of Europe combined.

Fake contests, shady insurance offers, or vacation deals? Spam texts are enough to make you throw your iPhone or Android out of the window — or worse. Thankfully, apps like Robokiller stop spam in its tracks. That means you’ll only receive texts from people you actually care about. You're going to love it. In this guide, updated for 2020, we're going to cover:

  • What are spam texts?
  • How do spam texts impact you?
  • Why do you receive spam texts?
  • Are spam texts legal?
  • And more...

You're about to find out everything you wanted to know about spam texts but didn’t know to ask.

What are spam texts?

Spam texts are a type of spam sent to a mobile device where the recipient has NOT expressed interest in receiving the communication. Typically, spammers send these messages in bulk to a large group of recipients. The latest technology and software makes these messages exceedingly cheap and easy to send. Spam texts might be enticing. They might even promise you one of the following:

  • A gift card
  • A free vacation
  • A credit card with low-interest
  • A way to reduce or write off your debt

These offers are fake, and the sender is trying to deceive you. Spammers use offers like these to phish for your private information, such as your:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Social Security number
  • Bank details

What do spammers do with this type of information? They can sell it to marketers or identity thieves. Marketers and identity thieves can then bombard you with further messages or, worse — attempt to access your bank account. Other times, spam texts contain a link in the message that installs malware onto the recipient's mobile device, and they can steal your information that way. Spam texts aren't just annoying. They’re potentially dangerous. If you've received a spam text, you're not alone. Research shows that:

  • 68% of Americans have received text message spam — that's more than one in three of the whole population!
  • As a whole, men and women are just as likely to receive spam texts
  • However, women under the age of 17 are the most likely to receive spam SMS

How do spam texts impact you?

You might think that spam SMS texts are harmless. "Just delete them," we hear you say. "Just ignore them."

But sometimes this isn't enough. You need to take more drastic measures to protect your privacy and security. Here are a few reasons why spam texts are dangerous:

  • Scammers use spam texts to identify whether a real human being uses your phone number. Ever wondered why some spam texts ask you to reply "STOP" to unsubscribe? This is one of the oldest tricks in the book! You might think that replying will stop you from receiving further communications. The truth is, you are just identifying yourself as a target. The sender now knows you're a real person, because you replied to the message.
  • Scammers use spam SMS messages to steal your personal data — email address, Social Security number, bank details, you name it. These messages might promise you cash or prizes or debt relief services if you reply with your personal information. Don't fall for this trick!
  • Some spam texts will install malware onto your device. If you click on a link in the message, malware might collect your private information from your phone. Scammers can then sell this information to marketers and identity thieves.
  • Spam texts can also generate unwanted charges on your phone bill. Your phone carrier might charge you just for receiving a text message, even if you never requested it. This is why simply ignoring spam texts (or deleting them) won't fix the problem.

Unfortunately, there have been loads of cases where people have fallen victim to spam texts.

  • One woman lost her life savings after she received text messages promising her a gift card.
  • Another woman lost $43,000 after responding to a spam text message that she thought was from her bank.

There are thousands of other people who have been affected by scam messages who haven't made the headlines. You might know someone. Or perhaps it's happened to you. (If it has, let us know. We'd love to hear your story.)

Why do you receive spam texts?


There's no particular reason why some people receive spam texts more than other people. It's completely random. It's nothing to do with your location or age or how long you've had your phone number. These are all myths.

Sixty-seven percent of 18-24 year-olds, 68% of 25-34, and 66% of 35-54 year-olds receive spam texts. As you can see, scammers don't discriminate by age!

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Here's the thing: Spammers use auto-dialing services that send texts to any phone number they can find. If you start receiving spam texts, sorry to break it to you, but the odds are just not in your favor. As spam texts are generated at random, there are very few solutions to stop them.

  • Sure, you could change your phone number, and this could stop spam texts for a little while. The chances are, though, that spammers will target your new phone number.
  • You could report spam texts to your phone carrier, but all they will do is add the spam number to their database. Scammers change their phone numbers frequently, so this is pretty pointless.
  • You could add your phone number to the Do Not Call Registry — a database that tells legitimate third parties not to contact you. Scammers, however, don't operate within the boundaries of the law and the Do Not Call Registry won't stop them from contacting you. They just don't care.

There are a few ways you can reduce the chances of receiving spam SMS, however. Scammers find phone numbers by scraping public databases on the internet — things like business listings, LinkedIn accounts, and social media accounts. With that being said, you could do the following:

  • Google your phone number and see if it's publicly available. If you own a business, your website and other business listings might list your phone number. Scammers can easily find these numbers and add them to their databases, so you might want to remove them.
  • Check your social media accounts like Facebook and Instagram and see if your number is listed. You might want to remove your phone number or, at the very least, tweak your privacy settings so only your friends can access your number.
  • Read the fine print of any forms you complete online. Sometimes, companies send you annoying texts with promotions and appointment reminders if you don't "opt-out" of communications by ticking a box. You can always choose not to be contacted by a company when providing them with your information online.

A word of warning: Opting out of the above can cause problems! You might want your phone number on the internet so customers and clients can phone you about products and services. Or you might want to leave your number on Facebook so friends can message you. Or you might want to receive promotions from genuine companies you are interested in.

Is there another solution to spam texts?

You could download a spam text blocker app on your smartphone. Apps like Robokiller block incoming spam texts and spam calls before they can harm you. Robokiller uses machine learning to analyze text messages for critical predictors of spam, such as:

  • The number of the sender
  • The content of the message
  • Any suspicious URL or link structures  
  • Any attachments
  • Any keywords associated with known scams

This way, you don't need to remove your phone number from business listings or change your number at all.

Are spam texts legal?

If you received a spam text, there's a good chance it's illegal. Here's what the FTC says:

It's illegal to send unsolicited commercial email messages to wireless devices, including cell phones and pagers unless the sender gets your permission first.

And here's what the FCC says:

FCC rules ban text messages sent to a mobile phone using an autodialer (which most commercial spam uses) unless you previously gave consent to receive the message or the message is sent for emergency purposes.

So, yes, it's illegal to send unsolicited commercial email messages to wireless devices unless the sender gets your permission first. It's also illegal to send unsolicited text messages from an auto-dialer.

There are two exceptions to the law:

  • If a company has a relationship with you, it can send you things like statements or warranty information.
  • A non-commercial organization can send you political surveys or fundraising messages.

It's important to note that while legal texts are undoubtedly annoying, these messages aren't dangerous. It's the illegal spam texts that you should worry about because of the following:

  • Scammers have no regard for the law.
  • Scammers won't stop sending you messages if you ask them to (even if you're really nice!).
  • Scammers might try to steal your personal and financial data.

So, what else is the government doing? Recently, the FCC announced a new technology called STIR/SHAKEN, where phone carriers will attempt to identify an unknown caller on your phone. However, this framework doesn't really extend to text messages. Messages from unknown senders will still end up in your inbox and you'll still receive notifications, which can be extremely distracting (and disappointing if you're waiting for someone important to message you!) This may mean an increase in spam texts in years to come. STIR/SHAKEN also doesn't prevent unwanted phone calls from reaching you in the first place. Sure, it acts as an extra layer of security, but you still have to decide whether to accept, reject, or block a phone number. This process still takes time out of your day and doesn't really solve anything in the long run.

Why are spam texts so difficult to stop?

spam text

In recent years, scammers have become far more sophisticated in their methods. Now, it's difficult to tell whether a message is from a genuine person or a scammer attempting to steal your information. It all has to do with something called caller ID spoofing. Caller ID spoofing is the technology that allows spammers to alter the information that is forwarded to your caller ID. In simpler terms, caller ID spoofing enables someone to display a phone number different than the exact number from which the call was placed. Caller ID spoofing works for both phone calls and text messages on your smartphone.

By spoofing your phone number, nearly anyone can call you from:

  • Blocked caller ID
  • “No Caller ID”
  • Unknown caller ID
  • Random phone numbers
  • Phone numbers from local area codes
  • Even your own phone number!

Caller ID spoofing allows scammers to remain totally anonymous. Often, they make it appear that someone is sending a message from a legitimate, local phone number — but that's not the case. To make matters worse, caller ID spoofing and auto-dialing technology are very inexpensive to use, especially at a high volume. Illegal texters utilize caller ID spoofing because it guarantees total anonymity for their scams. Spammers send spoof texts from fake phone numbers that are not their own. Spoofing increases the odds that a scam texter will not get caught for their illegal actions, making spoofing the weapon of choice for many spammers worldwide.

The problem of spam texts is becoming an epidemic. Twenty-five percent of people encounter problems with unwanted spam texts at least weekly.

How does caller ID spoofing impact you?

Caller ID spoofing makes it difficult for you to stop spam texts on your own. No longer can you just delete or ignore the message. This is because scammers have access to thousands, perhaps millions, of phone numbers, so they will just continue to flood your phone with unwanted communications.

Caller ID spoofing also tricks you into thinking that someone important is trying to contact you — a loved one or a colleague, for example. Replying to a spam message (because you think it is genuine) is a common mistake, but it's one that could cost you. If you have received a spam text, there's a good chance that an illegal scammer has sent the message.

Many scammers operate from overseas, where they are not subject to the laws of the United States. As a result, they can continue to bombard people with unwanted communications without fear of getting caught.

Here are some of the most common caller ID spoofs, according to the FCC:

  • Scammers text you pretending to be from your bank or credit card company. They might use a number of tactics, such as fake fraud alerts or promises of low interest. The real purpose of these messages is to steal your personal information and access your financial accounts.
  • Scammers text you pretending to be from charitable organizations. They might ask you to donate funds to a good cause, especially during the holiday season. Again, the purpose of these fake messages is to steal your information.
  • Scammers text you pretending to be from your health insurance provider and remind you to enroll in or change your health plan. These messages also seek to steal your information.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Scammers might pretend to be someone from the government or law enforcement with the intent of tricking you into thinking you're reading a message from a loved one. In recent months, spam texts have become even more targeted and might include personal information that makes you believe the texts are genuine, such as your nickname.

How to stop spam texts for good

spam text

Spam texts are on the rise and show no signs of slowing down. The only way to stop scammers from stealing your time, money and identity? Prevent them from reaching your phone in the first place!

As you can see above, this can be difficult. Despite recent legislative changes, scam calls and texts are still impacting millions of Americans every single day — and changing your phone number or contacting your carrier just won't cut it. There is one effective solution that you need to know about. A spam text blocker app can stop spam texts for good. These apps use machine learning to analyze and block thousands of potentially harmful texts every single day.

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Apps such as Robokiller provide advanced spam text and spam call protection to protect personal identity and financial information. All you need to do is download the app from the App Store or Google Play. This is how it works:

  • Robokiller analyzes messages that reach your phone for specific predictors of spam such as the number of the sender, the content of the message, any attachments, and other important factors.
  • Robokiller will filter out these messages if it believes they are spam.
  • Robokiller will move spam messages to a special folder in your messages app called “Unknown & Junk.”
  • You can review these flagged messages at any time to make sure it's definitely spam.

Robokiller provides spam protection whether your phone is online or offline. Here's how to set it all up after you've downloaded the Robokiller app:

  • Open your phone’s settings.
  • Scroll down and tap on messages.
  • Scroll down and tap on “Unknown & Spam.”
  • Enable Robokiller under the SMS filtering section.
  • You’re done! Robokiller is now protecting your messages!
spam text

With Robokiller, you are protected from spam texts before they attack. It's the only weapon you need in the fight against unwanted spam texts and calls. We highly recommend signing up for Robokiller if you want to stop spam texts and robocalls for good. Beyond offering the most effective spam call protection, SMS filtering, real-time caller identification, and block/allow list functionality, Robokiller also allows you to get revenge on spam callers using Answer Bots, which are hilarious pre-recordings that keep spam callers on the phone for hours.

Learn more!

With a low monthly fee, Robokiller is a secure investment to protect your privacy and personal information against annoying spam texts and unwanted calls.

Join the fight to stop spammers for good and enjoy a spam-free smartphone!

Why blocking spam texts with default call blocking won’t work

You might be wondering if there's a difference between Robokiller and the default block feature on your phone. There is. Both Apple and Android have text message filtering features. They can block some unwanted texts, but they weren't designed to fight the current spam text epidemic. Here are the steps you need to take in order to block spam texts on your iPhone:

  • Access “Messages”
  • Tap on the message from the spammer
  • Select “Details” under the “i” icon on the top right of the screen
  • At the bottom of the screen, select “Block Caller”
how to stop robocalls on iphone

Notice anything wrong with this solution? If you thought about caller ID spoofing, then you’re right!

Because a scammer is likely to text you from a spoofed number, blocking a phone number following the above steps will NOT stop the spammer from texting you again or help your spam text problem. It will merely block that one phone number, and the flood of spam texts will keep coming. The same goes for Android.

Robokiller, on the other hand, was designed to fight all types of spam texts, including those sent with faked, spoofed numbers. As a result, you can stop unwanted texts from reaching you in the first instance and customize your settings to make sure you still receive messages from people you know. It's that simple!

Ready to start with Robokiller? Click here to find out more, or download the Robokiller app from the App Store or Google Play now.

Free 7 day trial
Fight back against spam and reclaim your phone.
You’re one step away from a spam-free phone (and a little poetic justice, thanks to Answer Bots).
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