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How to block incoming text messages

In the cellular world, spam isn’t free. On your computer, it’s a mere annoyance. But when you receive unsolicited messages on your cell phone, it costs money. So if you’re not one of the many who have text messaging bundles, you’re going to need a way to filter out these messages. But how?

The problem is that this varies by carrier. Surprising as it may be, many carriers don’t offer you the option of blocking text messages from a certain number. Logic dictates that this should be a service offered by carriers, if for no other reason than to curb harassing communication.

Some carriers don’t even allow you the option to block text messages at all. This seems a bit odd as well. Some people genuinely do not want to use text messaging. Since they clearly would not be subscribing to a messaging bundle, they’d be charged for each text sent to them.

Take my mother for instance. She hasn’t a clue how to text message. But when I went to help her with her phone, I found a number of them in her inbox. They were from friends and family, and with good intentions. However, my mother was not aware of their presence. She was obviously charged for these text messages. If she had the ability to turn text messaging off — which makes sense, because she doesn’t use the feature — she wouldn’t have been charged.

Blocking texts from a specific phone number

Did you know that of the carriers I talked to from our pay-as-you-go phone providers, only one has the ability to block text messages from an individual number? That would be Alltel. They have a feature called Message Register, which allows you to block communications from specific people. Why other carriers don’t implement this kind of feature, I’ll never know.

So if you’re getting harassing text messages, you’d better hope you’re on Alltel. If not, your options are precious few. Actually, there’s only one option: Turn off text messaging completely. And even then, there’s no guarantee that your provider can do that.

Turn it off totally

A few carriers do allow you to completely turn off your text messaging functions. With it turned off, you’re effectively blocking text messages, and thereby will not be charged for them.

So if you’re a customer of Verizon, AT&T, or Virgin Mobile, you can call customer service and have them shut off your text messaging feature. And that will be the end of that.

The prepaid unlimited carriers are similar. You can turn off text messaging in total, but not block from certain numbers. Not that turning off text messaging will save you money. It’s all unlimited with Cricket and MetroPCS, so turning off text messaging only serves to hinder annoyances.

You’ll get text messages whether you like it or not

Are you a customer of T-Mobile or Boost? Well, then you’re just going to have to deal with annoying text messages. Neither company will shut off your text messaging, no matter how many harassing text messages you receive.

I don’t understand how this is good company policy. Yes, there is money to be made in SMS. But there’s further money to be made in customer satisfaction. This goes doubly for prepaid. If a customer does not like a service, he or she can walk away.

So if you don’t plan to use SMS, it might not be a good idea to go with Boost or T-Mo. Even if you don’t give out your number — which could help ensure that you don’t get charged for text messages — there’s always the possibility that you’re inheriting the number of a big texter.

What about Tracfone

What would an article about prepaid providers be without the nation’s No. 1 carrier? They’re left off to a section of their own because I found it difficult to get a straight answer out of them. Yes, they said, you can block SMS messages. “There are ways to do it,” said the representative. But when I pressed for specifics, I was stonewalled.

The solution with Tracfone: Buy one of their old phones which don’t support SMS. Yeah, they’re archaic, but they ensure that you won’t incur charges for unwanted messages — because you won’t be able to receive them in the first place.

A note about shortcodes

I’ve seen forum posts which claim that you can text message “B [phone number you wish to block]” to shortcode 8888. I have not heard any confirmation of this, nor have I tried it myself. Has anyone else? It seems to me that if this does work, it doesn’t block the text message at the carrier’s switch. Which means that you’ll still be charged, even if you don’t ever receive the message.

Blocking text message spam

If it’s not an individual you’re after, but rather it’s text message spam you want to stop, there is a way. Carriers do offer an option where you can block emails coming to you via an Internet protocol. Since spam is mostly sent en masse through teh Internet, blocking Internet-based messages will curb your daily dose of SMS spam.

You can also block text messages coming to your phone number @ your carrier.com (e.g., [email protected]). This is another frequent source of spam.

Report spam

In any event, should you receive text message spam, you should immediately report it to your service provider. Many of them, like Verizon, will give you a credit for the spam message. Not all carriers do this, but even if they don’t, still make sure to inform them of spam. Hey, maybe it will help them wake up one day and do more about it.

We all hate spam. So let’s do all we can to eradicate ourselves of it.