We all get the occasional spam text message, and the usual response is to delete the message and block the number. But what about reporting the message? Can you report spam text messages to your provider or the FCC? Here’s everything you need to know about protecting your device from spam text messages.
Yes, You Can Report Spam Text Messages
The short answer is yes, you can report a spam text message. Deleting the message and blocking the number is the simplest way to get rid of a spammer, but you can also report the message to your cellular provider or the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
If you want to report a message to your provider, copy and send it to 7726. This is the universal spam number that works for devices covered by Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint and Bell. The report won’t contribute to any messaging charges and the investigation will begin right away.
To make a formal complaint to the FCC, just file a consumer complaint and provide as many details as you feel necessary. Sending unsolicited commercial messages to unwilling recipients violates Federal Trade Commission (FTC) law. However, non-commercial messages about relationships, financial transactions, politics and fundraisers are exceptions.
How to Find the Scammer’s Identity
If you don’t feel content reporting the spam message, you can use other platforms to search the spam phone number and possibly identify the primary owner.
It is important to note, though, it is not necessarily a good idea to try to contact or physically find a spammer yourself. If you do happen to find evidence of who they may be, report your findings to local law enforcement or the FCC and inform them of the spammer’s suspicious activity. Contacting spammers yourself can lead to more unwanted phone calls, texts, or other contact, potentially from people involved in criminal activity.
Searching the phone number connected to a spam number is mainly useful for confirming if the message is in fact spam or simply a real person who texted the wrong number. Keep in mind that some spammers have technology that allows them to mask their real phone number with a legitimate phone number, so searching for the phone number is not a 100% guaranteed way to identify the origins of a spam message.
1. Start With a Google Search
A Google search is the most straightforward way to find the person behind a mystery phone number. Just type in the area code and seven-digit number and see what comes up on the results page. You will likely find random business websites, social media accounts and personal blogs from around the world. You also might find the information of the people spamming you.
If nothing helpful appears on your first search, put quotation marks around the number and hit search again. This search will yield fewer results, but they will be more relevant. A phone number database will come up, at the very least.
2. Use a Reverse Phone Number Search Website
Another potential solution is to use a reverse phone number search website. These websites offer free reports about whatever number you plug into the search engine. The reports are usually rather basic and you need to create a subscription to get multiple reports at once, but they still give you a solid foundation of evidence to build upon.
Unlike a simple Google search, these sites provide access to certain public records that can lead you to the spammer’s name, address and even occupation. Here are some trustworthy sites you should try:
- Instant Checkmate
- Public Seek
These websites can be helpful tools in your search, but don’t expect them to give you a full description of the person. Expect to get a few tidbits of information to help move the search forward.
3. Scour Social Media
Most social media sites don’t display phone numbers on people’s accounts, with two exceptions: Facebook and Linkedin. Searching the spam phone number on these sites might bring you straight to the culprit’s personal or business profile.
This tactic will also help you determine if the spammer is an actual person or just a bot. Despite their dwindling popularity, billions of people still have Facebook and Linkedin accounts. If no one comes up in either of the searches, the spammer is most likely a bot and your search has reached a dead end.
If you haven’t found a lead on the source of the spam messages at this point, it’s time to give up the search. As long as you blocked and reported the message, that number won’t bother you anymore. You can also use the experience to identify more subtle spam messages down the road.
Likely Spam Culprits
A spam message can come from many senders. Harmless robocalls and automated SMS messages from businesses are the most common sources, but there are some other possible culprits:
- Disguised Calls: a skilled spammer can hijack a legitimate phone number (or simply steal the phone) to try to get sensitive information from you. If a seemingly trustworthy number starts asking you unexplained questions about personal information, confirm their identity before telling them anything.
- Cybercriminals: scammers and other cybercriminals from around the world can extract information from victims through a series of spam messages. This method usually involves a call to action, such as persuading the victim to give their credit card information to bail a relative out of jail.
Telltale Signs of Spam
Harmful spam messages from disguised callers and cybercriminals display common patterns that often blow their cover. Keep your eye out for these signs if you receive a spam text message:
- Requests for sensitive information
- Calls to action
- Bad spelling and grammar
- Impersonation of a government or business official
- Includes strange links, images or other attachments
- Not personalized
- Unknown area code
Some spammers are more subtle and like to play with human emotions. They try to appeal to your better nature by asking for charitable donations and other forms of monetary assistance. Others do the opposite and establish panic by demanding bail for a supposed relative in prison. Don’t believe anything you read from a random text, as alluring as the story might be.
Keep Watch, Block and Report Spam Text Messages
Can you report spam text messages? Yes! You can block the number and report the message to your cell phone provider or the FCC. But you don’t have to stop there. You can also try to find more information about the origin of spam messages through Google, reverse search websites and social media.
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