Have you been receiving a slew of text messages recently–the kind not sent from your friends and family? You're not the only one. The sheer number of text messages that companies are sending is skyrocketing. The text bombardment is due in part to a Supreme Court Ruling (Facebook v. Duguid), and the fact that brick and mortar stores are trying to compete with online retail by texting ads to people (which turns out to be very cheap and effective).
So what has changed that's allowing this deluge?
Last spring, the Supremes ruled in favor of Facebook's robotexting practice of sending messages to its users.* Unfortunately for all of us, this ruling gave the green light to any company to use its list of phone numbers to send text messages to consumers.
The other reason that we're seeing a large increase in text messages is that companies have discovered how well texts work in getting customers to buy. It only costs a fraction of one cent to send a text message, so marketers only need a very small percentage of people to click on the text's call-to-action in order for the campaign to be successful.
Many text messages we receive, however, have nothing to do with advertising. Many are simply messages that our food at Frida Batidos is ready, or our Delta flight has been delayed. While helpful, they still add to the pile of messages we must scroll through.
What can I do to stop them?
While some of these texts are ones that we've signed up for, many are not. We may want CVS to let us know when it's time to renew our prescription, but we may not want daily announcements from Bed Bath & Beyond about a sale on towels. Everyone's preference for which messages to keep receiving is different. For the ones you don't care to get anymore, simply text back the word, STOP. Legitimate companies have to remove you from their texting list. Otherwise, they are in violation of the law.
One more step you can take to prevent getting spam texts (from legitimate companies) is not give them your phone number in the first place. We usually let them know our phone number when we sign up or register for something with the entity. Often, it's a promotion where this happens. Sometimes, it's unavoidable, and we have to give them our phone number, but we can look to see if there's a box to check (or uncheck) so we don't receive marketing info from the company or its associates.
But what if the company isn't legitimate?
What if it's a scammer pretending to be a well-known brand? In this case, do NOT reply. Simply delete the text. Clicking on the link, or calling the number, will likely take you to a website or person where you'll be asked for personal or financial information that they're looking to steal. If you feel like reporting it, you can forward the text to 7726, which AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon use for such instances.
Additionally, if you have an iPhone, you can go to Messages in your Settings and turn on Filter Unknown Senders. This will put messages from people who are not in your Contacts into a separate list. If you have an Android phone, you can go into the Messages app, enter the Spam Messages setting, and set it to "Block Unknown Senders." Of course, both types of phones have the ability to block specific numbers, but this may not stop bad actors, who regularly send from a different number each time.
Sometimes it's very tricky to see if a text is legitimate or not. They can look so real. In this case, go through a checklist:
•Does the message offer you something that sounds too good to be true?
•Does the message cause you to be afraid that you have to "act now" or something bad will happen?
•Are there misspelled words or bad grammar?
•Does the website they want you to go to have a strange web address?
•When in doubt, delete it.
Take a deep breath
Be smart: slow down before clicking on something. Take the time to look at the message closely. If it's legitimate, but you don't want future texts from that sender, type STOP back to them. It can be a slow process, but in time, you'll be able to whittle down the number of messages you receive. Then you'll be able to focus on the real important messages–like the ones your daughter sends with her Wordle score.
*At issue was whether Facebook was using an automatic telephone dialing system–something prohibited by the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (a law created before the first text was ever sent). The court ruled that an autodialing system has to have a random number generator that makes the calls. Since Facebook was sending messages from its subscriber list, and not randomly generating numbers, it was free to continue.