How To Stop Unwanted Text Messages

The following is the weekly guest series by Derek Johnson, Founder & CEO of text message marketing software Tatango. I feel like all of my efforts to curb text message …

9860 18
9860 18

Stop Unwanted Text MessagesThe following is the weekly guest series by Derek Johnson, Founder & CEO of text message marketing software Tatango.

I feel like all of my efforts to curb text message spam within the text message marketing industry aren’t making any progress. I’ve done a post about how text message spam will be the death of text message marketing and written an open letter to the Mobile Marketing Association. Recently I went so far as to commission my own text message spam report to show the industry how big of a problem we have on our hands. The report will come out in early August and without giving too much away, our findings show that text message spam is more than a problem, it’s a pandemic. Even with all of these things I’ve done, it seems like the majority of text message providers don’t give a crap as they continue to engage in shady, borderline illegal activities without any regard to consumers, the industry or the rules put in place by the mobile phone providers.

So instead of continuing to fight what I now see as a losing battle, the next best thing is to empower the consumer and teach them how to fight off text message spam individually. Here are my 6 steps on how to stop unwanted text messages.

Quick Note: The steps below are meant for short code text message spam, which comes from a 5-6 digit phone number. If you’ve received text message spam from a 10 digit phone number (which are sometimes called long codes or long numbers) or a phone number that looks like an email – 2063344012@att.com (which is called SMTP messaging), I’ll be honest, you’re kind of screwed. These types of  text message campaigns aren’t approved by the mobile phone providers and aren’t held to the same standards as short codes are. If you do receive a text message spam from a long code, skip to steps #5 & #6.

Step #1 – Opt-Out

If the short code provider is following all of the rules, opting out of a text messaging campaign should be pretty simple. All you have to do is reply to text message spam with any of the words STOP, END, QUIT or UNSUBSCRIBE in the body of the text message. You will know if it works because you should receive a text message back to your mobile phone confirming that you have successfully opted-out of that text message campaign. If one of the words doesn’t work, I would try the others just in case. If this doesn’t work, move on to step #2.

Step #2 – Help Command

Similar to step #1, reply to any text message spam with the word HELP in the body of the text message. If the short code provider is following all of the rules, you will get a message back with information about the short code provider, such as a toll free support phone number, email address and a website. Use that information to contact the text message spammer and tell them to stop. If you don’t get anything back after replying HELP, move onto step #3.

Step #3 – Identify The Sender

Look for any unique identifiers in the text message campaign to help you figure out who is behind the text message spam. Look for things like a phone number, an address, a business name, etc. If you’re able to find any of these within the text message spam, contact the offender and tell them to stop blowing up your mobile phone with text message spam. If you can’t find any of this information within the text message, move onto step #4.

Step #4 – Identify the Short Code Provider

If you are unable to identify the sender of the text message spam, you need to move up the SMS totem pole. You will now need to figure out which short code provider the sender is using to spam you. There are two methods that work really well, which are explained below. Once you find the short code provider, contact them and tell them you’re fed up and want to be removed from all text message campaigns.

Google Method – Use Google and the following search terms with the offending short code number in place of [short code number]. This should point you to the short code provider’s website where you can find contact information.

  • [short code number]
  • Text [short code number]
  • Short code [short code number]
  • SMS [short code number]
  • Stop to [short code number]
  • Help to [short code number]
  • SMS marketing [short code number]
  • Text message marketing [short code number]

SMS Directory Method – You can search for the short code at the U.S. Short Code Directory, which may have information such as the brand running the text messaging program, and their support contact information.

Step #5 – Call Your Mobile Phone Provider

If you can’t find any information online about the sender or short code provider that is spamming you, now it’s time to call your mobile phone provider. When you call them, be sure to have the short code number and when you received the text message spam handy. Usually mobile phone providers can help resolve text message spam issues, or at the very least give you the information you need to stop receiving the spam. Below are the support lines for the top 10 mobile phone providers in the United States. I tested them personally and they all work, so as of July 20, 2011 these are accurate.

  • Verizon –  (800) 922-0204
  • AT&T – (800) 331-0500
  • Sprint/Nextel – (800) 639-6111
  • T-Mobile – (800) 937-8997
  • Tracfone – (800) 323-2366
  • MetroPCS – (888) 863-8768
  • Clearwire – (888) 253-2794
  • U.S. Cellular – (888) 944-9400
  • Cricket – (866) 384-4425
  • Simple Mobile – (877) 878-7908

Step #6 – Call Your Attorney

I’m completely serious on this one. If you arrive at this step without a resolution to your text message spam issue, it’s now time to teach the spammers a lesson, and the only way to do this is to hit them where it hurts; inside their wallets. With past multi-million dollar text message spam lawsuits, you can be sure to find an attorney very quickly that will fight for your case.

In this article

Join the Conversation

18 comments

  1.    Reply

    There is a http://www.teenytext.com/ service called TeenyText.com to send your mass customized http://www.teenytext.com/messages . They have a free account too.

  2.    Reply

    I would check out a http://www.teenytext.com/ service called TeenyText.com to send your mass customized http://www.teenytext.com/messages . They have a free account too.

  3.    Reply

    Thank you! Replying UNSUBSCRIBE to my fox29/news4 from:45203 seem to have worked. I received an emai reply stating you have opted out and will no longer receive alerts. Contact help0imobilemarketing.com

  4.    Reply

    Which right now mean SMTP and long codes.I recommended it ..

  5.    Reply

    What about calling the Attorney and teaching the phone companies a lesson. Why do they make life so easy for spammers and hard for their customers?

    Clearly there are ways to stop spammers but it seems that mobile companies are reluctant to do anything about it, most likely because they profit from it.

  6.    Reply

    can you please give me examples of companies from which you receive unwanted text messages?

    thx

  7.    Reply

    Does this work in the UK? Or will it be a different process?

  8.    Reply

    Better simply call customer care and register you number in DND (Do Not Disturb)
    as per provider policy your no. will be registered to DND list .then you wont get any unwanted call or messages

  9.    Reply

    Good point, thanks for mentioning the FTC method.

    In regards to your other comment, spammers will always gravitate to the least expensive methods, which right now mean SMTP and long codes. I almost wish short codes were twice as expensive as this would weed a ton of spammers out of the industry. Just my take on this issue.

  10.    Reply

    Derek,
    You forgot 'Contact the FTC.' http://www.fcc.gov/guides/spam-unwanted-text-mess…. They have an online complaint form.
    Rather than implicitly attack smtp and long code providers as spam enablers, let's do something as an industry. An industry that does not exclude smtp and long code providers as there are sometimes legitimate uses for them, specifically in the peer to peer or opt in group scenarios. Unfortunately I do not mean as an industry through MMA, CTIA, or US Short Codes. My feeling is that these entities are protecting an expensive ecosystem ($500/month for random short code is just a start) that drives small and medium businesses to use shared short codes, smtp solutions, long codes, etc. These alternatives are not evil, but I agree that they make it harder for a consumer to stop messaging than a credible short code provider.
    No, we need to take a different coordinated approach with a clear goal of destroying spam where we can, but in an effective manner, not simply making it expensive to get a short code. We could eliminate mobile spam if we eliminated mobile phones, but that's going too far, don't you think?

  11.    Reply

    Derek: Great article. Unfortunately, the spam text messages I've been receiving have been from a ten digit number and have NOT been SMTP messages. I did call my wireless provider and, initially at least, it looked pretty bleak (e.g. lots of questions about things I'd already done, a request for me to forward the text via a 'forward' function my seven year-old PDA phone didn't support, etc). In the end though, AT&T came through for me, providing me with several months of their "SmartLimits" service at no-charge, which allows for specific numbers to be added to a filter via the Web. According to the support rep., the spammers receive a message back stating that their text message has been blocked, often causing them to remove the blocked number from their lists. The hope is that, after two months, the messages will stop, at which time AT&T will call me back and ask if I wish to discontinue the service or continue it for a charge. We'll see how it works out but, still, it was nice that AT&T at least seems to be trying to help their customers fight back again the unethical bastards out there! 😉

    1.    Reply

      T.R.

      Please take a moment to read my reply above. The 10 digit number you're referring to is a form of an SMTP text message. It's just coming from another cell number's email address to your cell number email address.

      In my reply above, I discuss how I was able to block ALL SMTP texts on my AT&T account at no charge. There should be no reason you have to use or purchase an add on service when AT&T already provides a way for you to block these permanantly.

      Also, I failed to mention this above, but you can also block specific email addresses from sending texts, so if you are receiving them mainly from one number/email address, you can simply block it from sending any other texts. In the case of a telephone number based email, you will need to determine which provider they use. I think you can find that out easily enough via Google or AT&T.

      Good luck! Stick with it. You will beat the spammers just like I did.

    2.    Reply

      That's the problem with long code messaging, it's extremely hard as you figured out to opt-out. Thanks for sharing your story, I'm sure it will help others in the same situation.

  12.    Reply

    Derek,

    I agree this is an important subject that needs to be addressed. Being involved in the Mobile Marketing industry myself, I found myself a victim of SMPT Text Spam.

    As a retired police officer & investigator I decided I needed to take action to end this non-stop abuse on my privacy. And while at first it might seem like you're screwed, as you mentioned, the fact is you can stop it in most cases.

    However, you should not expect your cell phone carrier to offer much help. All of the customer support folks I spoke with at AT&T did not have a clue how to put a stop to this. I'd like to share with you what I did in the hope it can help others who are being victimized.

    First a little background on how the spammers are able to pull this off. Every cell phone number has an email address assigned ot it. Something I didn't know prior to all of this.

    So if you are with AT&T, your email address is your 10 digit cell number AT txt DOT att DOT net. Or if you have your service with Verizon, T-Mobil, Sprint or Nextel your phone's email address would look like this:

    your-10-digit-phone-number at vtext dot com
    your -10-digit-phone-number at tmomail dot net
    your -10-digit-phone-number at messaging.sprintpcs dot com
    your -10-digit-phone-number at messaging.nextel dot com

    Basically the spammers just use random phone number combinations with the different cell carrier email addresses to spam you. In most cases there was nothing you did to cause this. You are just a victim of spammers using various combinations of cell phone numbers with the different carrier email attribute.

    The easy way to put a stop to this is to just turn off or block ALL text messages. Not really an option for me, probably not for most people who are now used to using text messaging.

    So I called AT&T, but again, nobody I spoke to could seem to offer me a real solution other than to opt-out. I tried that, over and over and over again, but it never worked. The more I opted-out, the more spam seemed to arrive.

    After not getting anywhere with AT&T I decided to log into my AT&T account online and started poking around. It wasn't easy to find, but I ultimately found under the "Preferences" section an area that offered me "Blocking Options".

    Once there, I found an option to block all text messages sent to me as email. Hard to believe, but nobody I spoke with at AT&T, and that includes their Security Department, could advise me I had this option. Scary, but true!

    Once I checked the box to block text messages sent as email, it still took almost a full week before they finally stopped. That was several months ago, and I am happy to report I have not had a single spam SMTP message since!

    My advice would be to check your online account for your cell provider and see if you can locate similar options. If you have AT&T, you can definitely do this. Hopefully the other carriers also provide this option.

    But don't be surprised if you call and nobody knows about it. I hope this helps!

    1.    Reply

      Where IS this preferences category? I've poured thru the webpage on my acct and had the acct rep do the same and neither of us could find it. Please elaborate…

    2.    Reply

      Jay, thanks for your comment, it will definitely be a good resource for consumers that are getting SMTP spam. Thanks again.

  13.    Reply

    Also call your mobile phone company! They can block the short code / long code for you, and if it's a short code and they get multiple complaints, they'll look into it.

    1.    Reply

      Yea, #4… I put that as #4 because I usually dread calling my phone company. I usually want to fix it myself before spending the time on the phone talking to them. Thanks for the comment.