You hear the sound of an incoming text message and excitedly check your phone. But it’s just a junk message sent to you by a spammer trying to con you into tapping a link, opening an attachment, calling a number, or doing something else likely to cause you trouble.
Robotexts and spam messages are a fact of life, just like robocalls and junk email. They may not be as invasive as a spam call, since you can largely ignore them, but that doesn’t make them harmless. Some phone plans may charge you for incoming text messages and smishing (SMS phishing) attacks can be even more dangerous if you’re not careful.
However, you don’t have to put up with them. Just as you can fight against robocalls, you can block and stop robotexts with the right tricks and tools.
Do Not Respond
First and foremost, do not interact with the message. If you click a link or attachment in a spam message, it could trigger malware that infects your phone. You also don’t want to respond. Many legitimate robotexts include an option to text STOP to tell the company to remove you from their distribution list, but that doesn’t work with scammers.
In fact, by responding to a spam message, you’re only confirming to the scammer that your number is valid. From there, your phone number may be disseminated to other scammers, increasing your odds of getting more junk messages. So unless you know the text came from a legitimate company that honors such requests, you’re better off not responding at all.
Block Phone Numbers
You can block a number that’s been sending you junk messages. The drawback with this approach is that spammers typically spoof or switch phone numbers. So even if you block the number, you can still receive messages from the same spammer using a different number.
On an iPhone, open the text message you received. Tap the phone number at the top of the screen and then tap the Info button. At the next screen, select Block this Caller and then tap Block Contact to confirm.
On an Android phone, open the text and tap the three-dot icon in the upper right. The steps then vary based on your phone and OS version. Either select the Block number option, or select Details and then tap Block & report spam.
Report Phone Numbers
You can report a robotext to your mobile carrier by forwarding it to a specific number. To do this on an iPhone, press down on the offending message. Tap More and then tap the right arrow to forward it as a new text. To do this on an Android phone, press down on the message. Tap the three-dot icon at the top and select Forward. Text the new message to 7726, which spells out SPAM. The number works for AT&T, Verizon Wireless, and T-Mobile, all of which will use the information to try and block future spam messages.
Filter Out Spammers
On an Android phone, you can disable all potential spam messages from Google’s Messages app. Tap the three-dot icon in the upper right of the app and select Settings > Spam protection and turn on the Enable spam protection switch. Your phone will now alert you if an incoming message is suspected of being spam.
On an iPhone, you can filter messages from unknown senders into their own folder within the Messages app. Go to Settings > Messages. Turn on the switch for Filter Unknown Senders.
The top US mobile carriers offer their own filtering and blocking tools for subscribers. For the most part, they’re geared more toward spam phone calls, but they can also block numbers that attempt to deliver spam text messages.
Verizon’s Call Filter blocks robocalls and spam messages. The basic version is free, while the Plus version costs $2.99 for a single line or $7.99 a month for three or more lines. T-Mobile offers Scam Shield, a collection of free services to detect, block, and mislead spam and scam callers. It also includes a caller ID feature for numbers not already in your contact list.
The carriers also have technology on the back end to identify and block spam messages in much the same way email providers try to stop spam email messages. If you need more robust robotext filtering, you may want to check out a third-party app.
SpamHound SMS Spam Filter
SpamHound is a free service that works differently depending on the type of phone you own. The iOS app supplements Apple’s built-in Messages app to filter out SMS spam. But the Android app becomes your default SMS app for sending and receiving texts. SpamHound automatically displays past text messages and provides easy access to your contacts, but you can’t add GIFs, images, videos, or other files.
As for message blocking, it can detect spam based on keywords and other factors. To fine-tune SpamHound’s powers of deduction, you’re encouraged to create blacklist and whitelist rules for what you want filtered out or allowed to come through.
SMS Spam Stopper
Designed just for iOS, SMS Spam Stopper is a $2.99 app that uses artificial intelligence to try to detect spam messages. The app attempts to block spam that matches the SMS signatures of the 5,000 spam SMS messages in its own database. You can also tweak the app to block texts from any number not in your contacts. You’re even able to set up allowed words, blocked words, and blocked phone numbers to further control and filter out likely spam messages.
To get you started, SMS Spam Stopper helpfully provides a series of videos to show you how to configure it. After that, any spam messages that it detects are banished to the Unknown & Junk section of the iOS messaging app where you can review them.
Designed for iOS and Android, RoboKiller costs $3.99 a month or $29.99 a year. The app looks at each message to analyze the phone number, message content, attachments, and other elements to determine if the text is legitimate or not.
To set up SMS spam blocking on an Android phone, go to Settings and select the option for SMS Spam Recognition. Though the feature can’t stop SMS spam from reaching you entirely, it will alert you if a text message is tagged as spam so that you can determine whether to respond or ignore it. On an iPhone, go to Settings > Messages > Unknown & Spam. In the section for SMS Filtering, turn on the switch for RoboKiller. If a message is deemed to be spam, RoboKiller moves it to the SMS Junk folder in the Messages app where you can review it.
The folks behind RoboKiller also offer an iPhone app called TextKiller specifically to block text messages. By default, the app looks for certain words, terms, and other tip-offs to determine which texts are spam. You can assist it by labeling spam messages so it learns from your actions.
You can also set up block filters by adding specific phone numbers and blacklisting keywords such as “Buy now.” Any messages identified as spam are stored in a separate junk tab separate from legitimate texts. The basic version is free but limited. A premium edition costs $3.99 a month or $29.99 a year with a free one-week trial.
Like What You’re Reading?
Sign up for Tips & Tricks newsletter for expert advice to get the most out of your technology.