Protecting your privacy, your time, and your peace of mind are important. We want to help you make sure you’re in control of the communications that come your way around credit, debt and your personal finances in general.
To help you take control of these communications, we’ve already covered multiple topics:
- how to opt out of credit card offers that come from lenders who pre-screen your credit report
- how to stop getting junk mail from creditors, insurance companies, and other kinds of marketing
- how you can reduce spam calls using the do not call registry.
Today, we’re going to add to the list and talk about opting out of SMS text communications
Know the laws about opting-out of marketing texts
There are laws to protect you from unwanted SMS text messages. The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) prohibits businesses from using automated equipment to contact you without your written consent. This part of the law was written to target auto-dialers and robocalls, but it applies to SMS texts as well.
Violations of the TCPA carry fines of $500 to $1500 per violation, so companies that send thousands of texts could stack up huge fines if they aren’t careful to avoid texting people without consent.
In addition to the TCPA, the CAN-SPAM act, the California Consumer Privacy Act and guidelines from the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA) make sure that any entity sending marketing texts knows to obtain consent and to have clear policies in place to be removed from text marketing lists.
This means any text message you get as part of a marketing or business campaign should include some language like “reply STOP to quit receiving text messages” or “would you like to continue to receive text messages? Reply YES or NO”.
The most common way to stop receiving texts from an automated system is to reply with the word STOP.
Some businesses also allow other phrases, like QUIT, OPT-OUT, UNSUBSCRIBE, CANCEL, etc. Unless the entity texting you directs you to use one of those phrases, your best bet is to use the word STOP.
Also remember that you can file a complaint with the FCC about unwanted texts the same way you’d complain about unsolicited phone calls.
Be aware that these laws don’t apply consistently to every type of company. Nonprofit organizations and political campaigns aren’t necessarily bound by these laws, but they should still honor requests to opt out of text communications.
It’s important to remember that the guidelines from the CTIA aren’t legal restrictions, but the consequences of violating their policies can be severe. If an exempt charity is sending you unsolicited texts and doesn’t honor your request to stop sending you messages, they may not be fined under the TCPA, but by violating CTIA guidelines, they may lose their cellular account.
The CTIA is made up of the cellular carriers you use for texting, like AT&T, Verizon, etc.
The way to report unwanted spam texts to your carrier is to forward the content of the message to 7726.
This spells the word SPAM on your phone’s number pad. Your carrier may also then ask you to confirm the phone number you got the unwanted text message from.
This step is especially important for unsolicited spam, where the sender never asked for consent to send you messages. This is the equivalent of email spam, where the sender is unknown, and likely will be impossible to enforce the TCPA against (possibly because they sent the messages from outside the US). The best you can do against these spammers is to let your carrier know so they can block their ability to send text messages.
Blocking senders on your smartphone
If you’re using an iPhone, you can block texts from a sender by following these steps:
- Tap the unwanted message in the messages app.
- Tap the contact’s number at the top of the screen.
- Tap the “i” for info under the phone number.
- Tap the “info” icon, which should be the last icon on the right under the caller’s phone number.
- Tap the red text that says “Block this Caller” at the bottom of the screen.
- If the message uses Apple’s iMessage service, you’ll have the option to “Report Junk” if the sender isn’t in your contacts link. See this article from Apple for instructions.
If you use an Android device, you can block texts using the following steps
- Open the messages app
- Open the unwanted conversation
- Tap the “More” icon (three vertical dots) to the right
- Tap “Details”
- Tap “Block and Report Spam”.
On Samsung phones, the process is similar:
- Tap the conversation in the messages app
- Tap the “More” icon
- Tap “Block Number”
Blocking unknown senders on Android
On your Android smartphone, you can block messages from unknown senders to avoid getting messages in the first place. This limits your messaging to only those numbers you have added to your contacts list. Be aware that this may block messages you might want to receive if you haven’t added the sender to your contacts.
- Open the Messages app
- Tap menu
- Tap Settings
- Scroll down and look for “block unknown senders” under the section “Spam message settings”
Blocking unknown senders on iOS / iPhone
On an iPhone, you can filter unknown senders:
- Open the Settings app
- Select Messages
- Toggle the switch next to “Filter Unknown Senders” to the right so that it turns green.
Then, incoming messages from unknown senders won’t create an alert and they will be filtered. You can still see them in the messages app if you select “< Filters” in the top left corner of the screen.
Blocking texts on WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and other communication apps
Other messaging apps that don’t use SMS texting, like Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, Telegram, etc. will have their own methods for blocking unwanted messages. Depending on the app you use, check the support websites for that service to find steps to block unwanted messages.
Be wary of unauthorized text messages
Any texts you get that you didn’t authorize should be considered highly suspect. This is especially true if they don’t offer steps to opt-out or stop receiving future messages.
Your best bet is to assume any such message is a scam, and any interaction you have with them could leave you vulnerable. Your best bet is to report, block, and delete the message thread.
If you need help with your housing situation, debts, or credit, reach out for assistance. Don’t wait for someone to contact you, and don’t respond to unsolicited texts. Contact a nonprofit organization like credit.org so you know you’re dealing with someone you can trust.