How To Stop Unwanted Text Messages

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 – (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.