What the Tech: Robo texts on the rise

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(ABC 6 News) – If you hate robocalls (who doesn’t?) there’s some good news. The number of robo and spam calls is down significantly through the first half of this year. The bad news? The number of spam and robo-text messages is at record levels. According to its mid-year phone scam report, the app Robokiller says Americans received some 78 billion robo-texts in the first half of 2023.

Every day I get text messages asking if I want to sell my house, how I’m missing out on free money from the government, and why a package I didn’t order, can’t be delivered. You probably recognize spam texts but we can’t ignore them.

The FCC hampered spammers’ use of robocalls by requiring cellular companies to block calls from unverified numbers. Earlier this year the FCC fined a notorious robocall company 300 million dollars. So many scammers stopped calling and started texting. Not only to avoid being caught, but text messages are a better option to reach us. You can hang up or ignore a robocall. But a robo text is always delivered and almost always read.

New rules from the FCC ban text messages using an auto-dialer unless you give the company consent. Robo texts from your pharmacist or school for example.

Enforcement of the rules is the hurdle. The scammers use different numbers, and some come from overseas, making it difficult if not impossible to find, fine, and ban them from sending more.

There are a few things you can do. There are a few robo-text blocking apps. They cost money and I haven’t tried them enough to know if they do a good job at keeping them from pinging the phone.

In your phone settings look for messages, and then filter unknown senders. You’ll still receive the text but it won’t show up in the list of messages from your contacts.

When you receive a spam text, don’t click a link or reply with the word “stop”. It only tells the spammer your phone number is working and it can be sold and resold to other spammers. If you tap, “Report as junk” on an iPhone, you’re reporting the number to both Apple and your cellular carrier. You should also report the spam text to the FCC by holding down the message until you see a list of options. Choose “more”, then forward the text to the number 7726, or Spam.

The FCC said it’s going after robo-texters just like it did with robo-callers. But it took years before those numbers dropped. So, it’s up to us to block and report spam texts.