Getting junk messages from unknown numbers is a common occurrence for most mobile users. But while they can just be annoying disruptions, they also have the potential to be dangerous.
From elaborate scams to convince unsuspecting phone users into handing over their personal information, to nuisance texts trying to sell products, these messages are all too common. In fact, Ofcom reported that seven in 10 people have received a suspicious text.
Unfortunately, even those with high-tech phones are not immune from being targeted by salespeople and scammers. This said, there are functions on both iPhone and Android that you can utilise to better protect yourself from spam messages — we'll explain how to implement them in this article.
We'll also cover all you need to know about spam texts, including how to spot, and then deal with them. Plus, we'll run you through how to report spam texts so you can better protect yourself and get some peace of mind. So, let's jump in!
Spam texts are unwanted text messages sent to your mobile phone by businesses, hackers or scammers. They may come from withheld or private numbers.
Traditionally, spam texts were used by companies to sell a product or service to a new, wider audience who has shown no previous interest in the brand. Some companies still use them today as a sales tactic and send out marketing messages to a bulk recipient list.
This said, spam messages have developed over the years and are often also used by criminals for accessing private information and stealing money.
There are many reasons why you may receive spam messages, including:
- Your number has been shared online due to a data leak
- You replied to a spam message which then exposed you to other scammers
- You forwarded a spam message with a link in it which validated your number as active
- A company sold or passed your number along
- You entered your number into an illegitimate website
- You called an 800, 888, or 900 number, which allows telecoms networks to use Automatic Number Identification (ANI) to identify you and pass your information on
You will also likely notice that if you have interacted with a spam message by either forwarding it along (if it has active links in it) or clicking on any links, you receive even more unsolicited messages. The reason is that once you have done either of these things, your number will be marked as active; therefore, scammers and companies will likely keep trying to contact you.
Albeit annoying, traditional spam messages are not usually malicious in nature. For example, these types of messages include newsletters or chain messages.
However, as previously mentioned, the term spam text can also be used to refer to many forms of unsolicited messages. This includes phishing texts which can be far more detrimental to the receiver as they can solicit private information such as passwords and bank details.
The main difference between spam and phishing texts is that spam messages are usually intended to sell products, whereas phishing texts are malicious and aimed at stealing sensitive information and data by posing as another company — usually a well-known and reputable one.
Phishing texts are used by cybercriminals and are designed to gain your personal information or encourage you to click on links that download malicious bugs. This malware then infiltrates your device and steals your personal information, which often leads to identity fraud.
Despite there being a difference between spam and phishing texts, for the purpose of this article, we'll refer to all unwanted correspondence as spam texts or messages. Read on to find out how to spot these potentially dangerous messages and how to deal with them on both iPhones and Android phones.
When it comes to identifying a spam message, here are some things to look out for:
- Spelling mistakes and typos: this is particularly relevant if you receive a message supposedly from a reputable company. Major companies will have proofreaders who check content before it is sent, and therefore, errors are rare.
- Generic messages: if a brand is trying to contact you, they'll make it known who they are, so look for a brand name.
- Links: if there is a link in the message, check to see what it is. If the brand's name is in the URL, it'll likely take you to a genuine site. Also, scammers often shorten links so they include bit.ly in them. For this reason, don't click on any links you don't recognise.
- The message doesn't make sense: for example, receiving a message from a bank you don't hold an account with is a red flag.
- Impersonal greetings: messages from legitimate senders will usually address you properly. Not including a name can be a sign that the message is from someone you don't know who is trying their luck at getting something important from you, such as bank details or passwords.
- Immediate calls to action: often, scammers will create a sense of urgency to get you to react quickly and without thinking. An example would be receiving a message about your passwords being compromised, with a link to click on urgently.
- Prize wins: scammers also encourage individuals to hand over personal details to claim an exciting prize. Big prize wins and competition results should raise suspicion, especially if you haven't entered any.
Finally, when it comes to spam messages, a good rule to follow is if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
If you receive a potential spam text, here are some steps to follow to help protect yourself from it:
- Don't respond. As annoying as these messages are, do not respond to them. Doing so will mark your number as active to scammers and you're likely to receive more.
- Don't click on any links. Scammers will often provide a link in the message with a call to action such as "your passwords have been compromised, click here immediately to protect yourself". These links will frequently be malicious and can download malware onto your device. Malware can then compromise your device and allow a hacker access to your personal information.
- Block the number. Before the scammer has a chance to contact you again, block the number.
- Use your phone's spam blocking feature. For added security against malicious spam messages, utilise your phone's software. We'll explain how to do this on both iPhones and Android phones in the next section.
- Review your phone bill regularly. Scammers can sometimes use your phone to call premium numbers and rack up your phone bill. If you think you have been subject to such a scam, keep checking your phone bill to see whether it is correct. If it is not, contact your mobile network provider.
- Report the message. Reporting spam messages to your provider or a relevant authority will help them get better at identifying them. This will also help protect others against similar threats.
There are several ways to deal with spam messages on both iPhones and Android phones:
- Block the sender
- Filter text messages on your phone
- Use a third-party app to block spam texts
In this section, we'll cover each of these options so you can protect yourself better against spam messages.
Block spam texts on an iPhone
When you receive a spam text, one of the best things to do is block the sender. Blocking iPhone spam text messages is really easy to do. Here's how you do it:
- Head to the Messaging App and open the spam message.
- Tap on the large circle at the top of the screen (where the sender's name is) — this will cause a new screen to pop up.
- Click on the info icon, which is on the right-hand side of the screen.
- Click on "block this caller" and confirm the prompt by selecting "Block Contact".
Following these steps means you will not receive phone calls, messages, or FaceTime from the sender.
Block spam texts on an Android
If you own an Android phone instead, you can still block a nuisance sender. Here's how:
- Open the spam message.
- Click the three dots in the right-hand corner of the screen.
- Tap "Details" and then click "Block Contact".
Depending on the model of your Android phone, there may be even fewer steps. You may find that you only need to click the three dots and select "Block". Either way, this is a quick and easy way to prevent a scammer from being able to contact you again.
Filter text messages on an iPhone
Blocking the sender of a spam message is the best way to stop a sender from being able to contact you again, but it won't stop other scammers or salespeople from being able to message you. To tackle this issue, you can use the settings in your iPhone to filter out spam texts automatically. To turn on the filter, follow these steps:
- Go to the Settings App and head to Messages.
- Scroll down to "Filter Unknown Senders".
- Turn on the function by swiping the button to the right.
Once you have done this, all the messages from senders not in your contacts list will be filtered to the Unknown Senders tab and you won't receive notifications for them.
Filter text messages on an Android phone
Similar to an iPhone, you should be able to filter spam messages on an Android. To activate the feature, these are the steps you need to follow:
- Head to the Messaging App and click on the three dots in the top right-hand corner of the screen.
- Click on "Settings" and then "Spam Protection".
- Scroll down and look for "Enable Spam Protection".
- Turn on the function by swiping the button to the right.
The majority of phones will have this function somewhere, but if your phone does not have a spam filtering function, you will need to find another option — we'll cover this in the following section.
Use a third-party app to block spam texts
If you do not have the option to filter spam calls in your mobile phone's settings, you can still protect yourself against unsolicited messages. There are plenty of downloadable apps that perform the same function.
Best spam blocking apps for iPhone:
- SMS Shield: Protection against ads, spam messages, and phishing scams. The app also enables you to block specific numbers.
- TextKiller: automatic protection against spam texts, the app secures the phone and marks spam messages as junk.
- Truecaller: analyses calls and texts to identify spam and notifies you. It also has the capacity to automatically block spam messages. The app is also available on Android phones.
Best spam blocking apps for Android:
- SMS Blocker: an extensive text message blocker that can block messages based on the mobile number, sender title, and content keywords.
- Calls Blacklist: blocks calls and texts from different numbers, including private and hidden numbers, and unknown numbers.
- Key Messages: provides protection against spam messages and keeps a log of blocked calls and texts. The app can also identify and block spam callers on its own.
Most UK mobile customers can forward spam messages for free to the number 7726. This number was chosen as it spells SPAM on an alphanumeric keyboard.
To report a spam text, simply copy the original message, remove any links, and text it to the number. If you cannot use this service, contact your mobile provider to find out how to report a spam message to them directly.
Spam texts are not only a nuisance, but they have the potential to be malicious. Tempting though it might be to respond to one of these messages, doing so puts you at an even higher risk of having your phone and your personal details compromised — or at the very least, you'll end up receiving more texts.
When you receive a spam text, follow these steps to protect yourself:
- Don't respond
- Don't click on any links within the message
- Block the number
- Use your phone's spam blocking feature
- Review your phone bill regularly to check for unauthorised payments
- Report the message by forwarding it to the 'SPAM' number, 7726
If you're not sure if a text is genuine, it's better to err on the side of caution. Remember that if a reputable company is trying to contact you, they will make it clear who they are, and they won't push you to make an immediate decision about sending any personal information over text.