Life & Culture

End that mobile menace - spam texts


Spam texts are a real nuisance. They blight our handsets with unwanted adverts. What was once a trickle has now become a deluge. I asked over 4,000 of my website users and 95 per cent have received spam texts in the past sixth months. If you get them, here is what to do.

Put it in context

There are three different types of unwanted marketing texts. It is important to understand which you get so you can decide how to deal with them.

1. Unwanted marketing texts

While annoying, these are legal and often pop up after you have bought or ordered goods. In most cases, it is because you didn't realise you had to opt out of marketing on their website or forms, so they can legitimately pass on your details to third parties.

● How to spot them: They are usually from normal mobile numbers and if legit, should include the sender's company name and contact details.

● How to stop them: Once you are sure it is not a spam text (see below), opt out by simply replying STOP. This should be enough. If not, call the company direct and ask it to stop. If it still won't play ball, contact the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) on 030 3123 1113 or via

2. Premium texts

These charge you to receive them. In most cases, phone owners are unaware they have unwittingly signed up for the service, often from a ringtone, music or weather/news update service. Act swiftly, since your bill can quickly run into £100s.

● How to spot them: Rather than a normal phone number, they come from 4, 5 or 6 digit mobile numbers.

● How to stop them: Simply text STOP or STOP ALL to kill them off. But if they keep creeping in, call your network who will kibosh them. You can even go after them for money back if you did not subscribe. Note down the number and contact the regulator on 0800 500 212 or via its website You will need hard proof that you did not sign up.

3. The real spam texts

This is pure unadulterated, unsolicited spam whose peddlers tend to be 'ambulance chasers' hunting business if you have suffered a personal accident, payday loan firms, debt-write-off operators, tax rebate claims and claims -handlers sniffing out payment protection insurance (PPI) victims.

● How to spot them: It will be from a normal 11-digit mobile phone number, but this time do not text stop. Any reply is a bite on the end of their 'phishing line', showing your number is active, so could readily be sold on to other firms and you could be sent even more junk texts. These companies can be based abroad, so outside UK jurisdiction, which makes doing anything difficult.

● How to stop them: You have two options. They won't stop all spam to you but if we all do it, it should mean the less likely we all are to get spammed in the future.

● Report it to your network provider. The big networks have simple methods to help:

Network: What to do?
O2: Forward message to 7726
Vodafone: Forward message to 87726
Orange: Forward message to 7726
T-Mobile: Report to customer services
Three: Report to contact centre

● If you report it to the Information Commissioner the company could be hit with a fine of up to £500,000. Contact the ICO on 0303 123 1113 or via its website on

Prevention is better than cure

Stopping unwanted texts is not easy so it is important to act in such a way that you minimise them in the first place. These quick tips should help:

● Never Reply. Doing so confirms your number is active to the company behind it, leaving your phone at the mercy of more.

● When filling in surveys or marketing material, do not give your mobile number unless you absolutely have to.

● Do not list your mobile number online including Facebook, Twitter, or even on pages you think are private.

● Check privacy policies and opt outs. Companies often try to hoard your details, so read the small print and follow the instructions to stop them contacting you.

Curb cold-callers, junk mailers and more

Texts are only one form of spam attack. Here is how to protect yourself from the other types of junk:

● Cold-callers. Rules introduced last year stop energy sales cold-callers from knocking on your door as long as you simply put up a clear 'No Cold Calling' sign. Print one off at

● Unsolicited phone calls. Any UK company that makes unsolicited calls to you once you are registered with the Telephone Preference Service (via or calling 0800 398 893) is breaking the law.

● Addressed junk mail. You have no legal right to bar junk mail. Yet most UK marketers agree not to send letters if you register with the Mail Preference Service at or call 0845 703 4599.

● Junk post. To put an end to unaddressed flyers, leaflets and brochures delivered by Royal Mail, email to get a form or write to Freepost RRBT-ZBXB-TTTS, Royal Mail Door-to-door Opt Out, Kingsmead House, Oxford, OX1 1RX.

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