Federal Trade Commission
If you have a cell phone, you probably use it dozens of times a day to text people you know. But have you ever gotten a text message from an unknown sender? It could be a scammer trying to steal your personal information.
Find out what you can do about unwanted text messages and how to report them.
Scammers send fake text messages to trick you into giving them your personal information – things like your password, account number, or Social Security number. If they get that information, they could gain access to your email, bank, or other accounts. Or, they could sell your information to other scammers.
The scammers use a variety of ever-changing stories to try to rope you in. They may promise free prizes, gift cards or coupons, offer you a low or no interest credit card, or promise to help you pay off your student loans.
Scammers also send fake messages that say they have some information about your account or a transaction. The scammers may say they’ve noticed some suspicious activity on your account, claim there’s a problem with your payment information, send you a fake invoice and tell you to contact them if you didn’t authorize the purchase, or
send you a fake package delivery notification.
The messages might ask you to give some personal information — like how much money you make, how much you owe, or your bank account, credit card, or Social Security number — to claim your gift or pursue the offer. Or they may tell you to click on a link to learn more about the issue. Some links may take you to a spoofed website that looks real but isn’t. If you log in, the scammers can then steal your username and password. Other messages may install harmful malware on your phone that steals your personal information without you realizing it.
What To Do About Spam Text Messages
If you get a text message that you weren’t expecting and it asks you to give some personal information, don’t click on any links. Legitimate companies won’t ask for information about your account by text. If you think the message might be real, contact the company using a phone number or website you know is real, not the information in the text message. There are many ways you can filter unwanted text messages or stop them before they reach you.
On your phone
Your phone may have an option to filter and block messages from unknown senders or spam. Here’s how to filter and block messages on an iPhone and how to block a phone number on an Android phone.
Through your wireless provider
Your wireless provider may have a tool or service that lets you block calls and text messages. Check ctia.org, a website for the wireless industry, to learn about the options from different providers.
With a call-blocking App
Some call-blocking apps also let you block unwanted text messages. Go to ctia.org for a list of call-blocking apps for Android, BlackBerry, Apple, and Windows phones.
You can also search for apps online. Check out the features, user ratings, and expert reviews.
How To Report Spam Text Messages
If you get an unwanted text message, there are three ways to report it:
- Report it on the messaging app you use. Look for the option to report junk or spam.
- Copy the message and forward it to 7726 (SPAM)
- Report it to the Federal Trade Commission at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.
- The National Do Not Call Registry https://www.donotcall.gov/
National Do Not Call Registry
The National Do Not Call Registry was created to stop unwanted sales calls. It’s free to register your home or cell phone number. If you’ve already added your phone number to the Do Not Call Registry and are still getting a lot of unwanted calls, odds are the calls are from scammers. Read about blocking unwanted calls to find out what to do about them. If you answer one of these calls, hang up and report the call to the FTC.
How do I add my number to the Registry?
Go to DoNotCall.gov or call 1-888-382-1222 (TTY: 1-866-290-4236) from the phone you want to register. It’s free.
If you register your number at DoNotCall.gov, you’ll get an email with a link you need to click on within 72 hours to complete your registration.
How long will it take for sales calls to stop?
Your phone number should show up on the Registry the next day, but it can take up to 31 days for sales calls to stop. You can check whether your number is on the Registry at DoNotCall.gov or by calling 1-888-382-1222 from the number you want to verify.
Will my registration expire?
No, your registration will never expire. The FTC will only remove your number from the Registry if it’s disconnected and reassigned, or if you ask to remove it.
Can I add my cell phone number to the Do Not Call Registry?
What about robocalls?
If a robocall — a call that plays a recorded message — is selling something, it’s illegal unless the company trying to sell you something got written permission, directly from you, to call you that way.
So if you haven’t given the company permission, and the robocall isn’t purely informational — like your cable company confirming a service appointment — there’s a good chance it’s a scam. At the very least, it’s from a company you don’t want to do business with.
If you get an illegal robocall, hang up. Don’t press buttons to be taken off a call list or to talk to a live person. It might lead to more unwanted calls. Instead, report it to the FTC.
Learn more about robocalls at https://ftc.gov/robocalls
What’s the penalty for companies that illegally call numbers on the Registry?
Companies that illegally call numbers on the National Do Not Call Registry or place an illegal robocall can currently be fined up to $43,792 per call.
The number from my caller ID was faked. Why should I report it?
Technology has made it easy for scammers to fake or “spoof” caller ID information, so the number you’re reporting might not be the caller’s real number. But sometimes, the FTC and other law enforcement agencies can still trace the call based on the information you give. Your report also helps because the FTC analyzes report data and trends to identify illegal callers based on calling patterns. It also uses additional information you report, like any number you’re told to call back, to track down scammers. Learn more about common phone scams.
To get fewer unwanted calls, look into call-blocking and call-labeling solutions.