If you’ve been feeling like you’re getting a lot more spam these days, you’re not alone. Both spam calls and spam texts increased in quantity over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, with 5.9 billion spam calls reported in June 2021 alone, an 11% increase. Spam texts didn’t grow as much, with only 7.1 billion (a 1% increase) more — but complaints about spam texts were up 146% in that period. Now, it seems text message spam is on the rise, with many of us having had a barrage of suspicious-looking text messages recently.
- How are spammers getting my info?
- Why you receive inappropriate spam messages
- Spam and regulatory issues
- How to tell if a text or email message is spam
- What to do if you get a spam message
- Whose devices are most vulnerable?
- How to prevent spam
- Clean up your data
The numbers for spam emails are even more staggering, with 122.3 billion sent every day though most get caught by spam filters. Truecaller, a well-known caller ID and spam-blocking app, also confirmed that there’s been an unprecedented increase in spam robocalls and text, with an estimated $29.8 billion lost to scam calls in 2021.
Anecdotally, we’ve certainly noticed an overall increase in spam, as well an increase in the amount of spam making it through the spam filters. In addition to it being annoying, we also have to remain vigilant to make sure our devices don’t become compromised, and our priceless data doesn’t get into the wrong hands.
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But with so many technologies and algorithms available to block spam, why are we still getting these email and text messages in 2022? We asked industry professionals their thoughts on spam to find out.
You get spam messages because someone gets access to your email address or phone number. Think about how often you provide your phone number or email address when checking out online, when registering for something, or when signing up for a rewards program in a store.
“Many of these service providers have been breached, and the consumers don’t even know it. There is no way for a consumer to reclaim their info after a breach, and that is when it is leaked to robocalling services for big money,” Rick Lazio, former congressman and now senior vice president at cyber consultancy Alliant Cybersecurity, told Digital Trends.
That’s really how simple it is. Even if you practice good data security, there’s no way to avoid having your phone number and email floating around in the world. It’s just the cost of modern living and convenience.
If you’ve ever received an NSFW (not safe for work) spam message that contained completely inappropriate subject matter, you’re not alone.
“While everyone gets spam, there has been an uptick in receiving “inappropriate” or “dirty” spam texts and emails,” says Rizwan Virani, CEO of Alliant Cybersecurity. “Bad actors know what they are doing. The purpose of sending spam and phishing messages is to ultimately get the receiver to open, click, or provide information. In regard to the dirty spam, bad actors are having success with these types of messages, and therefore, they are sending them out at a much higher rate than ever before.”
Even if someone replies with “stop sending this to me,” the spammer has then engaged the recipient, which provides them with a way in for further exploitation and data gathering.
Another reason we continue to receive spam calls and emails is that laws are slow to catch up with online crimes, and spammers use this to their advantage. “There is little to no legislation from a cybersecurity or data privacy standpoint that allows law enforcement to go after the criminals who enacted the breach … or allow users to protect their data,” Lazio says.
“These are all fast-moving issues that Washington is attempting to solve,” Lazio continued. “We at Alliant Cybersecurity also see the benefit in a private right of action by consumers against the vendors who purchase the data and/or a big increase in the penalty for the same (up to $5 million, for example) if law enforcement catches up. And maybe even a whistleblower provision to incentivize people on the inside of these companies to shine a light.”
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) does allow people to make complaints and has initiatives to combat robocalls together with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which allows you to sign up for the National Do Not Call Registry. The FCC has also engaged in enforcement actions, sending cease-and-desists and imposing fines. However, part of the issue is that the spam problem is simply too big for just the FCC to handle alone. “Closer coordination within the agency and between federal and state partners can help in addressing this consumer epidemic,” said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel as part of her statement about the launch of a Robocall Response Team.
If you weren’t expecting a message from that person or business, it could be spam. Other signs of spam are the following:
- A sense of urgency in the message
- Bad grammar or spelling errors in the message
- The message contains a link to click on
- The message is asking for your personal info or asking for money
- The sender’s email address is from a personal email, but they’re claiming to be a business
- You don’t recognize the number, but the sender is claiming to be someone you know
If you get a message that you think might be spam, do not engage with the sender in any way, shape, or form. “The best practice in dealing with spam is to not respond and delete it. Do not reply and do not call the sender’s phone number,” Virani says. “Luckily, opening a text message does not have any risk at this time. That said, clicking on links, pictures, replying to the text, and providing any additional information does. Instead of opening the text message, to begin with, play it safe and delete it.”
If you’re not sure whether or not a message is spam, reach out to the individual or company directly and ask them if they contacted you. If you receive a message from your bank, for instance, and you’re not 100% certain that message came from your bank, call your bank directly and ask them if they’ve sent you any text messages or emails.
Regardless of if you’re on Android or iOS, there are ways to prevent spam, but some devices might be more vulnerable than others.
“Phone operating systems do carry their own risks and vulnerabilities,” says Virani. “Android phones are actually riskier because of the variety of different operating system versions among
Aside from third-party ID and spam blockers like Truecaller, many cellular carriers offer spam-blocking services either as a separate app you can download or an extra subscription service. One such example is T-Mobile Scam Shield, which is available to customers for free and offers scam ID, scam block, and Caller ID services. Verizon offers a similar Call Filter to screen incoming calls, and Call Filter Plus,which requires a subscription but includes caller ID and a block list. Finally, AT&T has AT&T Call Protect, which lets you block spam calls and unknown numbers, as well as identify spam risk. The Call Protect Plus Upgrade requires a monthly subscription, but it adds caller ID, reverse number lookup, and more granular controls over call categories that are allowed through.
Pixel device users can also use Google’s A.I.-powered Call Screening to filter out spam calls and block robocallers. Most default phone dialers on both Android and iOS also have call-blocking options, letting you build your own call-block list and offer a way to export this list when and if you switch devices.
Beyond these basics, we also asked Patrick Ambron, CEO of BrandYourself, about other ways to help prevent spam. He suggests going directly to data brokers and people search sites to opt out so they cannot sell your data. He also recommends deleting old accounts and protecting your active accounts.
“While we may not want to admit it, many of us still have that old MySpace account that we lived by in high school but haven’t thought of in decades,” Ambron said. “While it may seem harmless, these accounts are still at risk of a data breach, which would make all the personal information they contain available to spammers on the dark web. We recommend auditing all of your email accounts, new and old, to make sure any old social media accounts are deactivated. Tools like BrandYourself’s Account Deleter or Mine can automate that process for you for free …
“Take advantage of sites that offer two-factor authentication, which many do today. Use password managers like LastPass or OnePassword to create complex passwords that are easily accessible, so you’re not constantly resetting them. Also, take advantage of the new privacy options sites like Facebook or Google have begun to offer. Turn off tracking toggles manually or use tools like JumboPrivacy to do this for you. VPNs and ad blockers are great additional tools to limit the amount of data tracking occurring as you browse.”
Practicing good data hygiene from the beginning is obviously the easiest, but the next best option is to go and clean up old zombie accounts and delete profiles and services you aren’t using anymore. It may be tedious, but the less personal information you have floating around online, the better.
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Why am I getting spam text messages? Spam texts are both intrusive and pose a security threat. If you are getting spam texts, it's more than likely that whoever is sending you a spam text message is trying to get access to your personal information—bank accounts, passwords, social security number, online IDs and more.Why am I getting so many spam texts from email addresses? ›
These messages are spam texts, also known as robotexts. The fact is, most spam texts don't come from another mobile phone. They usually come from a scammer who is sitting behind a computer sending a massive amount of texts from an email address or other messaging account.How do I stop spam emails and texts? ›
- Know the signs of a spam text. ...
- Don't respond directly to a spam text. ...
- Don't click on any suspicious links. ...
- Block phone numbers. ...
- Report phone numbers to your carrier. ...
- Enable spam filters. ...
- Be careful where you share your phone number. ...
- Use third-party spam protection apps.
- Report the email as spam.
- Block spam email addresses.
- Change your email privacy settings.
- Unsubscribe from unwanted newsletters or mailing lists.
- Use a secondary email address.
- Use a third-party email filter.
- Delete suspicious emails.
- Protect your device against malicious spam.
Why am I getting spam text messages? There are many ways spammers get hold of your cell phone number so they can send SMS spam and sales texts: They may use technology to generate numbers automatically — so even if you have a brand-new number, you can still receive both robocalls and robotexts.How do I stop spam texts on my iphone for free? ›
With iMessage, you can filter messages from unknown senders, and you won't get notifications from them. Go to Settings > Messages, scroll down to Message Filtering, then turn on Filter Unknown Senders.Why am I getting so many spam calls all of a sudden? ›
Getting a lot of unwanted calls would mean your number has been sold to a scammer group. Once your number is sold, it's used by all the scammers who have access to it. They try to defraud you in multiple ways by posing as professionals. Some might pretend to be from insurance agencies.How do you block text messages? ›
- Open the Messages app .
- On the Home screen, touch and hold the conversation you want to block.
- Tap Block. OK.
The best spam text blocker app for Android is the Calls Blacklist. It is a complete call and SMS blocking app that doesn't just stop spam messages. It has other features, including call silencing and spam recognition. Calls Blacklist allows you to screen unknown and private numbers from calling or texting.How do you block spam? ›
You can register your numbers on the national Do Not Call list at no cost by calling 1-888-382-1222 (voice) or 1-866-290-4236 (TTY). You must call from the phone number you wish to register. You can also register at donotcall.gov.
If you receive any unwanted email, the best approach in almost every case is to delete it immediately. It is often clear from the Subject line that a message is junk, so you may not even need to open the message to read it.Will I eventually stop getting spam emails? ›
It's important to note, however, that you will never be able to stop all spam mail. Since sending spam is so easy, many scammers will never stop using it, even if it often doesn't work. Still, if you take the right precautions, you can trim your incoming spam emails to a manageable amount.Is it safe to unsubscribe from spam? ›
Unsubscribing from spam has a boomerang effect
Most spammers have no idea if your email address is a valid one. They're just sending emails and hoping someone will fall for them. But when you hit that seemingly legit unsubscribe button, they get confirmation your email address is active.
- Don't respond to unwanted texts. ...
- Report spammers to your cellular provider. ...
- Filter potential spammers. ...
- Block specific spammers. ...
- Use a paid text-blocking app.
Spam texts in the form of donation requests, sales notifications, marketing notices, and scams, among others, have been on the rise. Last year, Americans received more than 225 billion spam text messages, a 157 percent increase over 2021, according to a report by spam call and text app RoboKiller.Does Iphone have a free spam blocker? ›
Truecaller Best free option. Among the most-used free spam blocking apps on the market with a large number of useful features. Nomorobo Robocall Blocking Good for complete blocking. It allows you to send spam calls directly to voicemail.Does * 61 block unwanted calls? ›
Block calls from your phone
Receive an unwanted call? You can: Press *61 to add the number of the last call received to your call block list. Press *80 to turn call blocking off.
The National Do Not Call Registry helps you reduce the number of telemarketing calls you receive. Stop unwanted sales calls by registering your phone number: Online: Visit DoNotCall.gov. By phone: Call 1-888-382-1222 or TTY: 1-866-290-4236.What happens if you call back a spam number? ›
You May Have to Pay a Hefty Phone Bill
That's because many spam calls originate from high-cost international phone lines. If you accidentally call back or connect to one of these numbers, you'll be responsible for a hefty phone bill. And the scammer on the other end will make money off of you.
This can be from the sale of personal data by companies who you've given your number; it can be from data leaks; and also can just come from spammers randomly generating numbers. It goes without saying that you should never tap on any links in suspect messages or provide any data those messages request.
Android phones move all blocked messages into a folder on the phone called “Spam and Blocked.” That means that the phone is still collecting messages from the blocked people; they just aren't notifying you.Can I block spam without opening it? ›
To block emails in Gmail without opening them, just click on the avatar and choose to block the sender.How do I get rid of spam quickly? ›
- Mark as spam. ...
- Delete spam emails. ...
- Keep your email address private. ...
- Use a third-party spam filter. ...
- Change your email address. ...
- Unsubscribe from email lists.
Call Block, otherwise known as Call Screening, is a feature that allows you to block calls from up to 10 phone numbers within your local calling area for a low monthly rate. Turn on: Press *60. If prompted, press 3 to turn the feature on.Why is spam so hard to get rid of? ›
It's very difficult to stop spam, mainly because it's often almost impossible to trace its origin. But this doesn't mean that it's an impossible task. In general, a good anti-spam software is enough to block most unwanted messages.What happens when you delete spam? ›
Automatic deletion of emails
Once an email is deleted from the Trash or Spam folder, it cannot be recovered in the mailbox.
Deleting email in the spam folder
If you delete email from the Spam folder or empty the Spam folder, the email will not be moved to the Trash folder. The email are immediately permanently deleted.
Why am I suddenly getting a lot of spam emails? Spammers buy bulk email addresses from particular providers to add them to their mailing lists. If you've noted a sudden increase in spam emails landing in your account, there's a high chance that your address was part of a list recently sold to one or more scammers.Why do blocked spam emails keep coming back? ›
Blocking someone stops their email from coming to your mailbox. If email from a blocked sender still appears in your Inbox, the sender might be: Changing their email address. Create an Inbox rule to pick up common words in your Inbox email and move them to the Deleted Items folder.How many emails a day to avoid spam? ›
How many emails can I safely send per day? If you want to ensure your emails reach their destination inboxes and stay out of spam folders, you should limit the total number of emails per day that you send to up to 200 per day for most email platforms.
The short answer is that, in general, it is OK to click on a legitimate vendor's unsubscribe link. But if you think the email is sketchy or coming from a source you would not want to validate your email address as valid and active, or are unsure, do not take the chance, skip the unsubscribe action.What is the uptick of spam texts? ›
The Rise of Spam Texting in 2021 & 2022
From 2020 to 2021, there was a 58% increase in spam texts sent. In September 2021, the number of spam texts sent was 1.227 million. By comparison, in August of 2022, 10.89 billion spam texts were sent. In April of 2021, Americans received around 16.9 spam texts a month.
This can be from the sale of personal data by companies who you've given your number; it can be from data leaks; and also can just come from spammers randomly generating numbers. It goes without saying that you should never tap on any links in suspect messages or provide any data those messages request.Is there any danger in responding to spam texts? ›
While just receiving a spam text is an annoyance, replying or engaging with one in any way can put you in serious danger of financial fraud, identity theft, or hacking.How to block text messages? ›
- Open the Messages app .
- On the Home screen, touch and hold the conversation you want to block.
- Tap Block. OK.
What are the limits? Unfortunately what exactly constitutes spammy behavior is a complete black box and there are no published limits in place. There's lots of factors involved and some people's numbers get flagged after sending just 100 of the same message, and some people are fine even sending 500 or more.How do I report spam texts to the FCC? ›
If you think you've received a political robocall or text that does not comply with the FCC's rules, you can file an informal complaint with the FCC at fcc.gov/complaints. If you are receiving texts that you didn't ask for, report the sender by forwarding the texts to 7726 (or "SPAM").What happens when you block a number on Iphone and they text you? ›
When you block a phone number or contact, they can still leave a voicemail, but you won't get a notification. Messages that are sent or received won't be delivered. Also, the contact won't get a notification that the call or message was blocked.Do I block spam on my phone? ›
On your device, open the Phone app . Spam and Call Screen. Turn See caller & spam ID on or off. Optional: To block spam calls on your phone, turn on "Filter spam calls." You don't get missed call or voicemail notifications, but filtered calls are in your call history, and you can check your voicemail.