A proposal to force cellphone companies to block certain spam texts is gaining momentum. Meanwhile, there are simple things you can do right now to stop spam texts, which I’ll get to shortly.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta has expressed his support for a proposal by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to put an end to illegal and malicious texts. By doing so, he joined attorneys general from the other 49 states and Washington D.C., who had all previously expressed their support of the proposal.
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What exactly does this proposal hope to accomplish?
In a letter signed by all 51 attorneys general to the FCC, supporting them in their hopes to require cellular providers to block illegal text messages from invalid or unused numbers, as well as blocking any phone numbers found on a “do not originate” list, numbers which have previously been proved to have been used for fraudulent activity.
The attorneys general are pushing for the FCC to go a step further, however, in urging them to develop authentication software that would help determine if a text message is a known or likely spammer, similar to how many spam or fraudulent phone calls are listed as “potential spam” on smartphones, thanks to the STIR/SHAKEN technology implemented in 2021.
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A report by the Federal Trade Commission, it is estimated that US cellphone users lost a collective $131 million as a result of fraudulent text messages in 2021, namely from texts which included phishing links, or downloads for malware and other harmful software.
How to look out for Spam Texts
What makes it so easy to fall for these scams is the fact that they often appear completely harmless, usually coming from a trusted service like your wireless provider or UPS. In some cases, they might also be posing as the IRS, warning you that a warrant is out for your arrest if you don’t pay unpaid back taxes, or conversely, that you’ve been granted a relief fund.
Always remember, the IRS or anybody of government will never contact you via text message, and very rarely even contact you by phone. Likewise, a legitimate service like UPS, or a trusted store like Best Buy or Amazon also likely won’t contact you via text message unless you explicitly requested it.
Before hitting the link sent to you via text, it’s always wise to ask yourself if you requested to be contacted by text, and then take a closer look at the number, which should make it pretty clear if they are claiming to be who they said. Should you receive a spam or suspicious text message, follow these steps to further protect yourself:
- Report the attempted scam to the FCC by forwarding them to 7726
- Never type STOP to prevent them from contacting you again. As doing so won’t stop them, but could result in your being texted even more
- When in doubt, never tap a link sent to you by a number you find suspicious
How to block spam texts on your phone
Thankfully, both Android and iPhone allow you to block any unknown or potentially dangerous numbers from texting you.
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iPhone gives you the option of both filtering unknown numbers, as well as blocking them.
To filter unknown numbers:
- Open Settings
- Tap Messages
- Turn on Filter Unknown Senders
- When you open your messages, you will find that your texts have been divided into three categories, “All Messages”, “Known Senders” and “Unknown Senders“
- All messages from an unknown number will be sent to Unknown Senders, and you will not receive a notification.
Just be mindful, this also might include a new acquaintance who you have just given your contact information to. So, if you are expecting a text from them that you haven’t received, check to see if it is in that folder. And likewise, if a new acquaintance gives you their number and you are expecting to hear from them, make sure you enter them as a contact into your phone.
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If you received a text you know to be suspicious, then the thing to do is to block that number, preventing them from being able to contact you again.
To block a spam number:
- Open the spam text message
- Tap on the profile Icon with the number underneath it
- Tap info
- Tap block this caller
Android similarly offers two services in helping you evade spam text messages, Spam Protection, as well as simply blocking certain numbers
To enable spam protection:
- Open the Messages app
- Tap the tree dots icon in the upper right-hand corner
- Tap Settings
- Tap Spam Protection
- Tap Enable Spam Protection
To block a phone number:
- Open the Spam Text Message
- Tap the three dots icon in the upper right-hand corner
- Tap Add To Blocklist
Spam blocking apps
There are also several highly recommended apps designed to block malicious texts, among our most recommended:
- Winner of the FTC Robocall challenge
- Protects you from spam texts and callers
- $2 a month for each mobile phone
- 14-day free trial
- Available for Android and iPhone
- Free for Android and iPhone
- Transcribes voicemails, saving you the trouble of listening to them
- Free reverse phone number database
- Caller ID, which even weeds out suspicious numbers
- Get YouMail
- Focused on blocking spam texts from unknown numbers
- Allows you to create keyword-specific blocks
- Also blocks out email addresses and phone number ranges
- Creates separate folders of known senders and unknown senders and junk
- Get TextKiller
Invest in a trusted antivirus program
Another way to protect your phone from coming in contact with any possible malware sent to you via a malicious text is to have a trusted antivirus program installed on your phone.
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Our top recommendation, TotalAV, includes both real-time anti-malware protection as well as advanced AI-driven cloud protection, which keeps your PC, Mac, Android and iPhone devices protected against the very latest zero-day threats. Their product is full of features to keep you safe from malware and protect you when browsing the internet, including ransomware protection, real-time antivirus protection, elimination of viruses and malware, a tool to free up your computer’s space, plus more.
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Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson is an award-winning tech journalist who has a deep love of technology, gear and gadgets that make life better with his contributions for Fox News & FOX Business beginning mornings on “FOX & Friends.” Got a tech question? Get Kurt’s CyberGuy Newsletter, share your voice, a story idea or comment at CyberGuy.com.