You hear the sound of an incoming text message and excitedly check your phone, but it’s just a junk message sent to you by a spammer trying to con you into tapping a link, opening an attachment, calling a number, or doing something else that’s likely to cause you trouble.
Robotexts and spam messages are a fact of life, just like robocalls and junk email. They may not be as invasive as a spam call, since you can largely ignore them, but that doesn’t make them harmless. Some phone plans may charge you for incoming text messages and smishing (SMS phishing) attacks can be even more dangerous, if you’re not careful.
However, you do not have to put up with them. Just as you can fight against spam phone calls, you can also block and stop robotexts with the right tricks and tools.
DO NOT RESPOND
First and foremost, do not interact with the message. If you click on a link or attachment in a spam message, it could trigger malware that infects your phone. You also don’t want to respond. Many legitimate robotexts include an option to text STOP to tell the company to remove you from their distribution list, but that doesn’t work with scammers.
In fact, by responding to a spam message, you’re only confirming to the scammer that your number is valid. From there, your phone number may be disseminated to other scammers, increasing your odds of getting more junk messages. So unless you know the text came from a legitimate company that honors such requests, you’re better off not responding at all.
BLOCK PHONE NUMBERS
You can block a number that’s been sending you junk messages. The drawback with this approach is that spammers typically spoof or switch phone numbers. So even if you block the number, you can still receive messages from the same spammer using a different number.
On an iPhone, open the text message you received. Tap the phone number at the top of the screen and then tap the Info button. At the next screen, select Block this Caller and then tap Block Contact to confirm.
On an Android phone, open the text and tap the three-dot icon in the upper right. The steps then vary based on your phone and OS version. Either select the Block number option, or select Details and then tap Block & report spam.
REPORT PHONE NUMBERS
You can report a robotext to your mobile carrier by forwarding it to a specific number. To do this, copy and paste or forward the original message and text it to 7726, which spells out SPAM. (To forward, press down on the offending message, tap More, and select the forward option.) The number works for AT&T, Verizon Wireless, and T-Mobile, all of which will use the information to try and block future spam messages.
FILTER OUT SPAMMERS
On an Android phone, you can disable all potential spam messages from Google’s Messages app. Tap the three-dot icon in the upper right of the app and select Settings > Spam protection and turn on the Enable spam protection switch. Your phone will now alert you if an incoming message is suspected of being spam.
On iOS, you can filter messages from unknown senders into their own folder within the Messages app. Activate it via Settings > Messages > Filter Unknown Senders.
The top US mobile carriers offer their own filtering and blocking tools for subscribers. For the most part, they’re geared more toward spam phone calls, but they can also block numbers that attempt to deliver spam text messages.
Verizon’s Call Filter blocks robocalls and spam messages. The basic version is free, while the Plus version costs $2.99 for a single line or $7.99 a month for three or more lines. T-Mobile offers Scam Shield, a collection of free services to detect, block, and mislead spam and scam callers. It also includes a caller ID feature for numbers not already in your contact list.
The carriers also have technology on the back end to identify and block spam messages in much the same way email providers try to stop spam email messages. If you need more robust robotext filtering, you may want to check out a third-party app.
Designed for iOS and Android, RoboKiller costs $3.99 a month or $29.99 a year. The app looks at each message to analyze the phone number, message content, attachments, and other elements to determine if the text is legitimate or not.
If you install the app on an iPhone, open Settings > Messages > Unknown & Spam. In the section for SMS Filtering, turn on the switch for RoboKiller. If a message is deemed to be spam, RoboKiller moves it to the SMS Junk folder in the Messages app where you can review it.
SpamHound SMS Spam Filter
SpamHound is a free service that works differently depending on the type of phone you own. The iOS app supplements Apple’s built-in Messages app to filter out SMS spam. But the Android app becomes your default SMS app for sending and receiving texts. SpamHound automatically displays past text messages and provides easy access to your contacts, but you can’t add GIFs, images, videos, or other files.
As for message blocking, it can detect spam based on keywords and other factors. To fine-tune SpamHound’s powers of deduction, you’re encouraged to create blacklist and whitelist rules for what you want filtered out or allowed to come through.
If you decided to pass on RoboKiller, the same people also made the iPhone app TextKiller to specifically block text messages. By default, the app looks for certain words, terms, and other tip-offs to determine which texts are spam. You can assist it by labeling spam messages so it learns from your actions.
You can also set up block filters by adding specific phone numbers and blacklisting keywords such as “Buy now.” Any messages identified as spam are stored in a separate junk tab separate from legitimate texts. The basic version is free but limited. A premium edition costs $3.99 a month or $29.99 a year with a free one-week trial.