Spam texts: How they get your number and what you can do to stop them

Posted at 6:23 PM, Apr 10, 2017

Your phone’s text notification goes off and you think, “I wonder who’s trying to reach me?”  Oh no, it’s another spam text!

Spammers now know how to find you on your cell phone. What should you do if you get a spam text? What’s at stake? And how can you stop it?

All questions familiar to busy, working mom Kimberly White-Young. She always pays attention when her phone goes off.  Is it a text about her daughter? Her job? When it turns out to be spam she says, “It's very annoying.”

How annoying are spam texts?

FCC data we sorted reveals more than 10,000 complaints about unwanted robocall and telemarketing text messages. Morey Haber, a cybersecurity expert with BeyondTrust, says, “Spam texts are actually very prevalent.”

How’d they get your number? You may have given it to them. Haber tells us, “People will often opt in for text messages and not realize they've done so. This could be anything from buying something online to even going to a sporting event where the big board says, ’Text your favorite something to this number.’”  

But sometimes, Haber says, texts are being sent from an auto dialer just looking for a response, “There are a wide variety of text message hacks that can occur today. Everything from hacktivism to actually owning your phone with viruses and malware.”

Once that spam text is there, Kimberly told us, “I don't feel like I know what I should do.”  She’s not alone.  

Experts say if you don’t remember “opting in” for texts from the sender:

·         Don’t click on attachments or links.

·         And don’t hit “opt out.”

Haber warns, “When receiving a spam text, or any text that's questionable, a user should never reply to the text itself. If they do and it’s an auto dialer, a hacker, or a scammer you've basically acknowledged the number is active and given them a dialogue to continue the conversation or potentially target the attack.”

How do you stop it?

•           Block the number the text comes from

•           Report the text as “spam” to your carrier, the FCC and the FTC. (Some spam texts are illegal to send—so the feds want to hear about ones you get.)

•           There are also apps like: Mr Number, SMS Blocker and Text Blocker

Kimberly says she’s now planning to fight back, saying, “It’s really scary actually.”

One other note: If you get a text claiming to be from a retailer and you want to “opt out,” you may want to go to their website or give them a call. That way you’ll know with whom you’re dealing.