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How To Stay Informed And Protect Against SMS Spam

While instances of SMS spam are far less common than other digital scams, it still exists. Learn the signs of text spam and how to protect against it.

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Spam. While also a delicious salty meat, the kind of spam we’re talking today is of the scammy junk text variety.

We’ll start with a disclaimer: most text marketers are legally and appropriately using text marketing tools. But a few industry bad apples can cause mistrust from carriers, consumers, and agencies like the FCC.

We understand why some people are guarded against giving out their mobile number. However, there are so many benefits to you as a consumer when it comes to texting with your favorite brands and organizations.

As an industry leader it’s our mission to make you feel informed and comfortable about your data, privacy, and most importantly, your phone number.

Junk Texts – What You Should Be Looking Out For

Because the text marketing industry is so well-regulated, there are a lot of rules a brand has to follow if they want to text their customers. These rules give you (the consumer) the ultimate say as to who can and can’t message you.

This also means that if these rules are being broken it’s a dead giveaway that you’re receiving a junky text.

Here are some of the rules a text marketer must follow:

  • All text marketers must receive express written consent if they want to send mass marketing messages to customers.
    • This means means a few things for you….
      • If you did NOT give a brand your phone number, there is no way they should be reaching out to you with mass promotional texts. It’s safe to call that spam.
      • If you did give a brand your phone number (for example you ordered something on Amazon and input your phone number) but did not consent to receiving promotional text messages, it is most likely spam.
      • If you gave a brand your number, like in the example above, and did give consent for text messaging in the context of something informational like order updates BUT the texts you receive are not related to what you agreed to, it is most likely spam.
  • No text marketer (not even a nonprofit) can ask for money, donations, or solicit any kind of financial entity from you over texts.
    • If a brand texts you asking for donations, or in general provides any link to a site where money can be exchanged, ignore it.
  • The CTIA forbids the exchange of messages containing SHAFT content (sex, hate, alcohol, firearms, and tobacco)
    • If you receive a message from a “brand” regarding any SHAFT related topics, it’s generally junk. The only small exceptions surrounds alcohol and tobacco. If you have confirmed you’re the proper age a group, like a brewery for example, can engage in text marketing.

If you’re ever unsure if a text you’re receiving is spam or not, err on the side of caution. A quick Google search, scan of a website, or message to customer support should be able to verify a texter’s identity.

💡SimpleTexting Tip: If someone from a business is texting you individually (as opposed to sending a text blast to a list you’re a part of) they may be sending a transactional text, which can have slightly different consent requirements under the TCPA.

Markers of a True Brand’s Text Messages

On the flip side, there are some other things you can look out for that will likely be an indicator that a brand that is paying attention to compliance:

  • The first message you’re receiving from them is a confirmation message including the brand’s name, estimated message frequency, a note about message and data rates, and opt-out instructions. We make it easy for businesses to send this type of confirmation (free of charge!).
  • You remember filling out a web sign-up form or opting in to a brand’s messages through a keyword. Those actions, initiated by you, began SMS communication that you should be able to opt-out of at any time.
  • The message is transactional. For example, when you give your number at a restaurant to hold your place in line, or to your doctor’s office for an appointment reminder. In these instances, brands are not using your number for marketing purposes, so if you share your number with them and receive benign information like those reminders, you shouldn’t have to worry about hearing from them again unless you prompt the exchange.

How to Protect Yourself Against SMS Spam

Now that you have a better idea of how to spot a junk text message, what do you do next? While it’s always an option to just ignore or delete it, you have some alternatives.

To dispel your fears, simply receiving a spam message doesn’t necessarily put you at risk. Most of the time, replying “stop” to a message will get you unsubscribed from whatever list you’re on, However, here are some additional steps you can take to reduce the chances of receiving more pesky spam messages:

  1. You can block the number that sent you the text
  • To block a number on iOS devices, simply open the text, click on the phone number at the top of the screen, then click the “info” button. Once on the details screen, select the phone number and then click “Block this Caller”.
Photo Credit: PC Mag
  • To block a number on an Android device, open the text message and click the three-dot icon located in the upper-right hand corner. Then select “Block number”.
Photo Credit: PC Mag

2. You can report the suspicious message to your mobile carrier.

  • When it comes to spam, nobody has your back like your mobile provider. To report a text simply copy or select the message in question and text it to SPAM (7726). Note that this only works for AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint. Once you report the message and your carrier receives it they will attempt to block any future spam sent to your inbox.
Photo Credit: PC Mag

Final Thoughts on Spam Texts

None of this information is meant to scare you or deter you from texting with brands. However, a lack of information can result in all text marketers getting a bad rap. The purpose of this piece also isn’t to lead you to believe that text scams are a highly common phenomenon.

Once again, due to the highly regulated nature of text marketers, you’re far less likely to see spam texts than say—crank calls or phony emails.

Guarded with this basic knowledge of what does and doesn’t fly in the world of SMS, you’ll be more than protected against the scammers of the web!

💡Disclaimer: Please note that this advice is for informational purposes only and is neither intended as nor should be substituted for consultation with appropriate legal counsel and/or your organization’s regulatory compliance team.

Meghan Tocci
Meghan Tocci

Meghan Tocci is a content strategist at SimpleTexting. When she’s not writing about SaaS, she’s trying to teach her puppy Lou how to code. So far, not so good.

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