Over the last couple of days, my cell phone has been inundated with text message spam. Yes, it’s suspicious timing, considering that Facebook just started giving out our phone numbers to app makers—but either way, here’s some tips for how to block annoying SMS spam.
Naturally, these tips can also be used to block anybody from sending you a message—if you don’t want to hear from that crazy psycho ex anymore, just treat them as a spammer and block them accordingly.
Contact Your Cell Phone Provider
Everybody everywhere knows that email providers have spam filters, but did you realize your cell phone company has spam filters for SMS messages as well? When you’re receiving SMS spam, it means that those messages got through the filters and made it to your phone. Your best bet is to contact your phone provider and let them know about the spammer, so they can add them to the filter and prevent them from reaching your phone.
When you’re dealing with SMS spam, sometimes you’ll be spammed by a single number, but often it’s going to be coming from all over the place. You can reply “STOP” like they ask you to, but it’s unlikely to work the way you think for most phone providers. Sure, the spam will eventually stop, but it lets the spammers know that they got a real person. You’ll just get more.
The biggest problem is that you’re paying for the incoming SMS message, even if you didn’t request it—and then you have to pay for another message to remove yourself? Sure, it’s only a few pennies, but it’s the principle of the thing. Keep reading for more methods of blocking spam.
Blocking SMS Spam on Android Phones
If you’ve got an Android phone, you’re in luck, because there’s a ton of applications that block SMS messages from people that aren’t in your contact lists. This is perhaps the most straight-forward way to get rid of spam, though you can also look at the carrier-based options further down the page.
The application we looked at was called Anti SMS Spam & Text Filter, which is a bare-bones application that does just one thing: block spammers. The most important feature is to enable “Block unknown numbers” from behind the misspelled “Setting” button. You can also block by keyword, number, and also see a list of all the spam messages that were blocked. There’s loads of other apps that do the same thing and even have more features, just search through the market.
Note: these screenshots came from the app page for illustration purposes.
Blocking SMS Spam on iPhones
HAHAHA! Yeah right. Steve Jobs says no. Well… that’s not entirely true—you can jailbreak your iPhone and install some applications from Cydia that will help you block SMS spam, and the one that everybody recommended to me was called iBlackList. Once you’ve installed it, you can follow this tutorial to help understand all the options—the important one is to block “Unknown Number”, which is where all of your spam is going to come from.
Blocking SMS Spam Using Google Voice
If you are a Google Voice user, you can block spammers directly from within Voice by simply logging into the web panel and clicking the “Report Spam” button for any message you want.
To more completely understand the Google Voice options, here’s one of their official videos:
Without question, Google Voice is an extremely powerful tool.
If you’re a Verizon customer, you can simply use their Spam Controls to disable any messages sent to your phone from the web or email (like firstname.lastname@example.org), which is where a very large percentage of the spam is going to come from. You can also block domains or email addresses specifically if you want—just head into the Internet Spam Blocking tab once you login to the Verizon panel.
It’s important to note that this will block other, potentially legitimate notifications—if you use notifications from your airline, web sites that send SMS reminders, and others, they usually use email to SMS gateways to send them. If you don’t, then go for it.
Note: If you have an Android phone and you’re using an SMS blocker application, you might still want to use this setting to reduce the amount of SMS spam you get billed for.
T-Mobile & Sprint
Sadly if you’re using either T-Mobile or Sprint, you don’t have as many options on the carrier level. Sprint has absolutely none as far as we can tell with some research (if you’re a Sprint customer and know of something, please let us know), and T-Mobile has something they call “Email Filters”, which allows you to block based on certain criteria, but doesn’t give you the global option that AT&T and Verizon have for blocking all messages.
The controls on AT&T are actually better than Verizon, because not only can you block text messages and multimedia set from the web or email, you can also set a secret alias for your phone’s email to SMS gateway. Head to mymessages.wireless.att.com and use the Blocking Options to set the controls to block.
Then head over to the Message Options to assign a custom alias for your phone. Instead of email@example.com, now you can get email to SMS using firstname.lastname@example.org, which you’ll make sure to keep really secret.
The other benefit with AT&T is that there’s no need for blocking voice calls, since they don’t work very well anyway.
Do you have any experience blocking spammers? Please share your wisdom with the other readers in the comments.
Programmer by day, geek by night, The Geek, also known as Lowell Heddings, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on Google+ if you'd like.
- Published 01/20/11