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How Do You Block Annoying Text Message (SMS) Spam?

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.

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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.

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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.

sshot-2011-01-19-1-21-19-27

To more completely understand the Google Voice options, here’s one of their official videos:

Without question, Google Voice is an extremely powerful tool.

Verizon Wireless

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 yournumber@vtext.com), 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.

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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.

AT&T

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.

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Then head over to the Message Options to assign a custom alias for your phone. Instead of mynumber@txt.att.net, now you can get email to SMS using mysecretaliashere@txt.att.net, which you’ll make sure to keep really secret.

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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.

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 01/20/11

Comments (37)

  1. David Levine

    I didn’t even know AT&T had spam controls. Thanks!

  2. Hatryst

    Just saw your tweets on this issue, didn’t know you’ll write an article on it:)

  3. grigore

    anything for windows mobile phones?

  4. MJ

    I installed a spam blocker on my old-tech N70 because usually spam comes from my cell phone company.

  5. iRobot

    Sprint used to allow you to block 10 numbers (text only, calls will still go through) through Sprint.com and your account options but they changed it to an option via text.

    http://support.sprint.com/support/article/Block_or_allow_text_messages_from_your_phone/case-cx832318-20091103-160141

  6. Khi

    I’m a Sprint user and if you log into your account and go to text msgs (you can send txt from there also) there is an “black list” block option to input email addresses as well as telephone numbers.

  7. Outspoken

    a) If you are a Symbian user, search for smsBlocker on OVI Store, it is a free software to block SMS’s.

    b) If you are in India, register with National Do Not Call Registry.

  8. Jean Claude Arial

    I use a Blackberry Tour on Telus in Canada. Is there a SMS spam blocker for the Blackberry?

  9. Марфа

    I’m using KMS and don’t have this problem

  10. Javi

    I have Tmobile and I had a company sending me the same message 49* times within one hour. No need to express just how annoying it was especially since it was in the AM and I was at work. Needless to say, I called Tmobile and they offered me the same option as the one mentioned above “Instead of mynumber@txt.att.net, now you can get email to SMS using mysecretaliashere@txt.att.net, which you’ll make sure to keep really secret.” This allowed me to still receive messages via email but people have to put my alias rather then my number. It was the only way to stop it. Hope this helps someone else.

    * I physically counted each one so when I called Tmobile I could complain to them about it.

  11. Michael

    Wait what!?

    You pay to RECEIVE sms messages? That makes no sense at all.

    Also, it must be very easy to identify and locate the sender of sms-spam. And to arrest and prosecute the bastard.

    I’m asking because this phenomenon is unknown where I live (in Denmark) and the concept of sms-spam seems absurd to me.

    Michael

  12. Kevalin

    Hi, Michael,

    Unfortunately, in America, when it comes to making money, anything goes…especially if it’s a big company. So yes, our cell companies charge for incoming and outgoing calls and messages, and Facebook is allowed to help spammers operate for money, no matter what their protestations to the contrary.

  13. Bob

    Great article with awesome info for everyone!!!

  14. cyberpub

    I use “Mr. Call Blocker” on my Samsung Intercept to block both text and phone calls. Works great!

  15. sprintuser

    I’m a sprint user and under MY PREFERENCES on sprint.com, you can block ALL text messages, or only from specific numbers.

  16. Paul

    I have T-mobile and was flooded with spam text messages so I registered my number with the governments “Do Not Call” list. I was told it could take up to a month to take effect so, not wishing to pay for unwanted text messages during that month, I decided to bite the bullet and instructed T-mobile to block all my test messages. After the month was up I had them unblock them and during the 3 months since them I have not received a single spam text, knock on wood!

  17. rxkggeoyzc

    It’s worth noting that blocking individual numbers on Verizon may only work for 30 days, and then you have to reblock the number. It’s something I wish could change.

  18. Matt

    With Sprint, it is very possible:

    -Login to My Sprint
    -Click My Preferences
    -Scroll down to limits and permissions and select Block Texts (screenshot: http://i.imgur.com/r8RA4.jpg)
    -Select the option to block these numbers in/out (screenshot: http://i.imgur.com/QGObJ.jpg)

    You can add up to 50 numbers.

    Also, it is possible in a retail (corp) store or via phone to block an SMS shortcode using a tool called PMG (premium messaging gateway). As far as I can recall (ex-Sprint employee), there is an infinite number of shortcodes you can block, and they can also block ALL short codes if you wish to receive none (keep in mind legit ones like Facebook would be affected!)

  19. Matt

    (Add a Space after those URLS i posted)

  20. Paul Underdown

    Thanks for this, easier than I thought it woud be with AT@T!

  21. Joel

    If you have Sprint you can Block text messages from people. If you open your text messages in the sender area type in “9999″ then in the message part type in block and put the number, and it will block that number!

  22. hamblindave

    Ha, ha! Absolutely loved this punchline at the end: “The other benefit with AT&T is that there’s no need for blocking voice calls, since they don’t work very well anyway.” :-)

  23. Mike F

    Additional Verizon Tip:

    The best way to prevent VTEXT messages arriving to your phone is to go in and adjust the nickname (possibly) associated with your account.

    Visit: Verizonwireless.com > Messaging > Send A Text > (left hand panel) Preferences > Nickname

    If you have a nickname associated with your account, or no nickname at all, change it or create one, treating it like a nigh-unbreakable password. Note, you’re only allowed lowercase numbers and letters and the nickname must start with a letter, but you can easily create an account nickname such as:

    v71nx5409d0f7r14igh32kl3an965 and pretty much ruin anyone’s attempts to brute-force or accidentally key in your nickname. Using Last Pass I generated a 32 character ‘password’ to use as my nickname.

    The biggest benefit of this method is you never have to update or refresh domains, numbers or addresses that regularly harass or misreach you.

  24. robb w/two b's

    Hey Brother, u’ll never know how much I appreciate this. Those suckers been driving me nutz.
    & Mike F, I’m going to try ur trick as well.

    Thanx to you both,
    robb w/two b’s

  25. Antje

    For Vodafone UK, a total block on all SMS is *35*1919*16#. Otherwise it’s a third party solution that’s required.

  26. jason

    I’m an AT&T customer and have used the mymessages site before to try to block SMS spam, and in my case it didn’t work. Even after enabling the blocking options and creating an alias, I kept getting the messages. The only way I could stop them was to reply STOP.

    So I guess your mileage may vary.

  27. Josh

    iBlacklist doesn’t actually block the SMS, it just keeps you from seeing it in your Messages app. The incoming texts will still count against your text limit (if you have one), and if you’re over your limit you’ll get charged for them. Don’t be fooled into buying this.

  28. jc

    I’m a sprintuser 2 & got a confusing explanation from 2 sprint cs reps re:how to do what the other person reference here a year or so ago & it never worked when having issues from an annoying texter(never did get it resolved) now I find this online tonight(Mobile Applications:Automatic Call Blocker App./Skydeck)…I’m going back to MYPREFERENCES 2 try one more time @ Sprint.com then if that doesn’t work, I’ll download this appツ

  29. Matt

    I work for T-Mobile in customer service and I can assure you that we do have a block all function for fighting spam. I get calls every day and it is great to provide us with as much info as possible so we can add to our spam filter to prevent others from getting the crap. We also have a feature called “email block” it only blocks the spam being sent from email to yournumber@tmomail.net address. It doesn’t block other email just the ones that come in as a text msg. When you get the spam from a four digit number and it says enotes on your bill this is where it is coming from. Go to http://www.tmobile.com hover mouse over “manage” go under Plans/Services, click change service and select “email blocker”, or call customer care and we will be happy to add it for you. We hate spam just like everyone and want to stop it as well.

  30. Chamberly

    Any idea for Straight Talk? (this is a company, uses AT&T and Verizon, depending on which cell phone you have) I use Samsung cell phones… Verizon for me.

  31. Max Bancroft

    For Spam emails to Mac or PC computers, Nortons Anti Virus program tags each spam email with the word [SPAM] so they are easily identified and can be dragged to a folder you have created and titled RUBBISH. This folder can be deleted once a month which in effect empties it. It can easily be recreated which provides you with a new folder that you title RUBBISH.
    By simply dragging (and not opening) the email, the host that sent it never receives an indication it was ever delivered and eventually assumes your email address is not correct. It then discards it which rids you of emails from that source.
    The RUBBISH folder is handy in the event you have not received a certain email you were expecting. Your anti spam program may have decided it was spam and marked it as such resulting in you dragging it to the RUBBISH folder.
    Also Try Googling the free anti spam programs Cactus or Spamfighter. They work in a similar manner to Nortons.

  32. Rachel

    For Sprint Users, you can block up to 50 numbers from texting and calling. That’s 50 for each!

    http://community.sprint.com/baw/community/buzzaboutwireless/customer-service/sprintdotcom-support/blog/2011/04/20/pests-marketers-stalkers-block-em

  33. Reinwald

    Try out Postman : The Sms Spam Filter your Android Phone

    Its free on the android market ,simple to use and ive not got a single spam sms after installing it Works like a charm

    Android Market :http://market.android.com/details?id=com.thesimpleandroidguy.apps.messageclient

    Website :http://itsmrpostman.appspot.com

  34. Hannah

    The Verizon section was very helpful… when I first visited their site, it looked like I had to buy a service, but your post showed me the free section! Thanks!

  35. diva

    what the best free app to block sms from certain numbers but can u still dee wat the petdon hss attempted?

  36. Mila

    Thank you, thank you thank you! I felt so much better after I read your article & downloaded ‘bye bye bunny boiler’ super simple & easy. No more textes from idiot club promoters about stupid clubs that I dont even go to.

  37. Nixx

    Thanks for the info. Just an FYI, I’m on att and they had no interest in collecting the spammers information. The person in the store referred me to their customer care phone number, and the person on there told me there was nothing they could do about it and wouldn’t even take the offending #.

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