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Text Messaging Spam – What is it?

written by: •edited by: Bill Bunter•updated: 6/27/2011

SMS Spam is a growing problem, but what exactly is it, how do you get SMS Spam and how do you avoid getting it? Read on to find out.

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    Before we get too far, let’s discuss what SMS is first. SMS or “Short Message Service” is better known as “text messaging” or “texting” – a service that allows you to send short text messages to cell phones – in many ways similar to email. It’s a useful feature – from IT departments using it to receive “outage” notifications to school alerts, twitter updates or just quick communications with friends or family.

    SMS Spam is defined as unwanted text messages – generally of a commercial nature sent to your phone over the SMS protocol.

    Besides the obvious nuisance of receiving such unwanted text messages, there can be other issues – primarily if you have a cell plan that requires you to pay for received and sent text messages or if you have a limit on the number of messages you can receive.

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    Why do I get SMS Spam?

    Have you ever posted your cell phone number to a public website or forum? Have you ever signed up for “free” ring tones for your phone by entering in your phone number to “register”? These are the most common ways for Spammers to get your phone number. In the first case of posting your cell phone to a public website or forum, Spammers write sophisticated phone “harvesting” software that scans public sites looking for phone numbers. In the second case of entering your number in to receive a “free” ring tone, either the site operator themselves is a Spammer or more likely they sell your phone numbers to others to do the spamming.

    Unfortunately, there isn’t a whole lot you can do if you are already receiving SMS Spam. Calling your cell phone provider generally won’t help much – they just don’t have a good means for stopping SMS Spam. How do they know whether or not you want to receive a certain SMS? They aren’t in the business (nor do they want to be) to censor or filter content going to your phone…. First off, if they get paid every time you get a SMS, they don’t have a huge incentive to fix the issue. Second, there could be some legal issues should they start to filter content.

    So, what can you do? Although there are products that claim to filter SMS Spam, it doesn’t do much good if you’re in the situation where you need to pay for each incoming message as the filter would reside on your phone and you’d still technically receive the message before it gets deleted. The only “sure thing” is to either have your carrier disable SMS messaging on your phone altogether (which probably isn’t practical) or you change your phone number.

    The best way to avoid getting SMS Spam in the first place is to avoid posting your cell phone number in any public place such as a discussion forum or website.