¶ Countering Text Message Spam on AT&T

Since around Christmas 2011, I have noticed a marked uptick in text message spam on both my iPhone and my wife’s iPhone on AT&T. For me, all of the spam has come from full 10-digit phone numbers, and it is never the same one twice. My wife has had mostly the same type of spam, save for one occurrence.

Just before Christmas my wife received a message from a subscription service’s short code. It was called ChalkboardIQ, and the initial message was an ad to receive daily quiz questions. It said nothing about what to do if she wanted to actually subscribe, but it did say to send STOP to cancel. Seeing as she had never received a message like this before, she did just that.

And then our AT&T bill was charged $10.

A quick phone call with AT&T cleared the charge from our bill, and unsubscribed my wife’s phone from the scam service. I also said to the AT&T customer service rep that I thought it was crazy that this sort of thing was allowed. She agreed, and I could tell from her tone that she deals with removing a lot of charges such as these. I thanked her.

The best thing to do if you get a text from a short code is to never reply to it. You really shouldn’t reply to any spam text message, but biting the bait on a short code will subscribe your account and charge you.

Recently, spam has increased at a steady clip. I’m getting three or four a week now. Since I have an ancient 200 texts/month plan, that doesn’t make me happy.

So what can a person do to curtail text message spam? There are a couple things I have seen for AT&T customers.

Report Messages to AT&T

This will work on any AT&T phone, but I’ll go through how it works on my iPhone.

  1. Receive a spam text message.
  2. Tap the Edit button, and tap the message. A red circle with a white checkmark should appear to the left of the message.
  3. Tap the Forward button.
  4. Address the message to 7726 (which is SPAM on a phone’s number pad).
  5. Tap Send.
  6. You’ll now receive a message labeled as ATT FREE MSG from 772-6. It will prompt you to reply with the phone number of the spam sender.
  7. Go back to the spam text. The easiest way to grab that phone number — besides writing it on paper to reference or using your short term memory — is to tap the Add Contact button, then Create New Contact. I then copy the phone number to the clipboard and hit Cancel on the contact creation.
  8. Now return to the message thread from 772-6. Paste in the phone number and tap Send.
  9. You’ll get another free message thanking you. You’re now done.

That is admittedly a long process, which could be easier. I’m not sure if this has really helped, because so far I have not received a spam text message from the same number twice. And that was before I started taking the time to report it.

Also, it is worth noting that if you report a message from a subscription short code, the reporting service tells you so and tells you to refer to your bill and to call customer service for further assistance.

Check Your Account for Subscriptions

You can visit att.com/db to check your account for any active subscriptions. This is much easier than sifting through a couple months of 11-page bills.

If you do have an active subscription, it’s time to dial 611 on your AT&T phone and chat with a support rep.

Block Subscriptions Entirely

While you are on the phone an AT&T support rep removing that subscription, be sure to ask for Purchase Blocker, which is a free parental control that blocks any and all “premium content purchases” such as ringtones, games, and subscriptions that are directly billed to your AT&T account.

If you’re on an iPhone, you should be using iTunes for all that stuff anyway.

Remember, dial 611 and ask for Purchase Blocker.

I don’t know whether or not Verizon and Sprint offer ways to combat spam text messages. AT&T does. While a carrier is a carrier to me, I’m glad to know that AT&T is doing something about spam. Hopefully it works.