A proposal to force cellphone companies to block certain spam text is gaining momentum. In the meantime, there are simple things you can do now to stop spam texts, which I’ll get to in a moment.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta has expressed support for a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposal to put an end to illegal and malicious texting. In doing so, he joined the attorneys general of the other 49 states and Washington DC, all of whom had previously expressed support for the proposal.
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What exactly is this proposal supposed to achieve?
In a letter signed by all 51 attorneys general to the FCC, supporting its hopes to require wireless carriers to block illegal text messages from invalid or unused numbers, as well as block any phone numbers based on a “Do not Origin “-List numbers previously found to have been used for fraudulent activity.
But attorneys general are urging the FCC to go a step further by requiring it to develop authentication software that would help determine whether a text message is a known or likely spammer, similar to how many spam or fraudulent phone calls are listed “potential spam” on smartphones thanks to the STIR/SHAKEN technology implemented in 2021.
Millions of dollars have been lost through text fraud
According to a report by the Federal Trade Commission, US cellphone users lost a total of $131 million to fraudulent text messages in 2021, namely texts containing phishing links or downloads for malware and other malicious software.
How to watch out for spam texts
What makes it so easy to fall for these scams is that they often appear to be completely harmless and usually come from a trusted service like your cell phone provider or UPS. In some cases, they may also pose as the IRS and warn you that you have a warrant out for returning unpaid taxes, or conversely that you have been granted a relief fund.
Always remember that the IRS or anyone from the government will never text you and will very rarely even contact you by phone. Likewise, a reputable service like UPS or a trusted store like Best Buy or Amazon is unlikely to text you unless you’ve specifically requested it.
Before you click on the link sent via SMS, it’s always a good idea to ask yourself if you asked to be contacted via SMS and then take a closer look at the number, which should make it pretty clear if they claim to be the person be who they specified . If you receive a spam or suspicious text message, follow these steps to further protect yourself:
- Report the attempted scam to the FCC by directing it to 7726
- Never type STOP to prevent them from contacting you again. While this won’t stop them, it could result in you getting even more texts
- When in doubt, never tap a link sent to you from a number you find suspicious
How to block spam texts on your phone
Luckily, with both Android and iPhone, you can block unknown or potentially dangerous numbers from texting you.
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iPhone gives you the ability to both filter and block unknown numbers.
To filter unknown numbers:
- Open settings
- Loss announcements
- turn on Filter unknown senders
- When you open your messages you will notice that your texts have been divided into three categories, “All Messages”, “Known Senders” Spirit “Unknown sender“
- All messages from an unknown number will be sent to unknown senders and you will not receive any notification.
Just keep in mind that this can also include a new acquaintance that you just gave your contact information to. So if you’re expecting a message from them that you haven’t received, make sure it’s in that folder. Likewise, if a new acquaintance gives you their number and you expect to hear from them, make sure you put them in your phone as a contact.
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If you’ve received a text message that you know is suspicious, you need to block that number so they can’t contact you again.
To block a spam number:
- Open the spam SMS
- Tap on the profile icon with the number underneath
- Tap Information
- Tap Block this caller
Android similarly offers two services to help you bypass spam text messages, spam protection, as well as easy blocking of specific numbers
To enable spam protection:
- open that announcements apartment
- Tap on the tree point icon in the top right corner
- Loss settings
- Loss spam protection
- Loss Activate spam protection
To block a phone number:
- Open the spam text message
- Tap the three dots icon in the top right corner
- Loss Add to blacklist
Spam blocking apps
There are also several highly recommended apps designed to block malicious texts, including our most recommended:
- FTC Robocall Challenge Winner
- Protects you from spam SMS and callers
- $2 per month for each cell phone
- 14 days free trial
- Available for Android and iPhone
- Free for Android and iPhone
- Transcribes voicemails and saves you from eavesdropping
- Free reverse phone number database
- Caller ID that even weeds out suspicious numbers
- Get YouMail
- Focuses on blocking spam texts from unknown numbers
- Allows to create keyword specific blocks
- Also blocks email addresses and phone number ranges
- Creates separate folders for known senders and unknown senders and junk email
- Get Text Killer
Invest in a trustworthy antivirus program
Another way to protect your phone from exposure to possible malware sent to you via malicious SMS is to install a trusted antivirus program on your phone.
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Our top pick, TotalAV includes both real-time malware protection and advanced AI-powered cloud protection that protects your PC, Mac, Android, and iPhone devices from the very latest zero-day threats. Your product is packed with features to protect you from malware and keep you safe while surfing the web, including ransomware protection, real-time antivirus, virus and malware removal, a tool to free up disk space on your computer, and much 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 coverage of Fox News and FOX Business, beginning on “FOX & Friends” in the mornings. Do you have a technical question? Get Kurt’s CyberGuy newsletter, share your vote, story idea or comment on CyberGuy.com.