One of the biggest interferences with our productivity and mindfulness are our mobile devices. Especially annoying are SMS messages, as our mobile devices are tuned to prioritize them. So we need to go against our basic programming to gain some inner piece. In this guest article, I asked Alex Alabiso from Semaphore for help with annoying SMS campaigns.
In an era where nearly every individual has a phone or a social media account, there is one mainstay that never runs out of ways to connect people by sending or receiving messages: SMS. Given the many effective communication platforms available for the public today—from emails to messaging apps—SMS remains one of the most used communication channels.
Any purchase of a smartphone comes with a subscription to a specific SMS provider. Thus, SMS becomes the foremost medium of communication even before users can gain access to the internet, online applications, and other messaging outlets. And it is easy to see why the average consumers or the masses rely on SMS to send and receive messages.
Doing Business with SMS Marketing
This confidence in short message service is one of the reasons why several businesses provide mobile numbers as a point-of-contact and include SMS marketing for cross-platform promotions.
Promotions through text messages are affordable, practical, precise, and quick. With just precisely 140 characters, a business can send product announcements, share their promos, send customer rewards, and provide links to online incentives—all in an immediate pace.
For recipients, they can quickly respond to such messages popping up from their smartphone screen and check their respective information, regardless of merit. They get updates through messages from businesses, thanks to the efforts made by companies, such as these circumstances:
- Social media sites share data
Platforms like Facebook and Google sometimes require their users to provide personal numbers or track their browsing habits. Occasionally, they provide users’ information to advertisers.
- Users personally provide their numbers
When customers subscribe to any product or service, those businesses and companies would require their personal information, including their mobile numbers. In those terms, information is shared with consent, but customers will not immediately know how they can be served with messages in the future.
- Users subscribe to business promos
On the single or multiple times that customers joined a promo, companies could record their information and made them part of their cross-platform advertisements.
- Users don’t provide their numbers
Thanks to the advancements in technology, several firms can now use automatic dialing hardware or software to call or text any landline or cellphone number, listed or not.
The Trappings of SMS Ads
With the prominence of SMS, it will take a long time for businesses to distance themselves from SMS marketing. While that practice is relatively harmless, customers have to deal with the worse conundrum: annoying SMS ads
While several businesses and companies are taking key steps to make SMS marketing user-friendly, customers are at their wits’ end, with their mobile numbers being susceptible to SMS ads and text promos. Sometimes, they are amenable to a few messages; but on other times, customers face these setbacks caused by annoying SMS ads:
- Messages being short and imprecise
Given that SMS can only accommodate a limited number of characters, short messages can be either unhelpful from their inadequate details or annoying if users don’t feel like checking a link just to learn more.
- Messages unaccommodating to customers’ needs
Since text messages are personal in nature, users tend to react negatively to unwanted texts from legitimate sources. This only depends on promos that are really enticing to their needs.
- Messages that are too repetitive
Businesses can be too overeager on doing extensive marketing through SMS that their ads overflow their recipients’ inboxes. This is the reason why they always provide an “unsubscribe” option.
- Messages suspected to be fraudulent
Scams are still prevalent in text messaging, so it is no surprise that SMS users will be wary of any message promoted by a commercial enterprise or a specific personality.
How to Stop SMS Scams
The latter statement is where the true danger of being susceptible to SMS ads lies. Thankfully, nowadays, SMS scams can be easily spotted and reported. But frequent SMS users need to be vigilant and watchful over these unwarranted ads or risk falling victim to them. Here are a few practical ways to avoid them:
- Never reply to spam messages
This is the cardinal rule for stopping SMS scams. You’re only one text away from prompting those messages, scam or not, to constantly bombard you with messages and attempt to engage in your interests. And other scammers may follow suit since your number will be passed on to others who will try to defraud you. As much as possible, never reply to spam messages.
- Report the spammer to your carrier
If such spam messages have become too constant that they nearly flood your inbox, it might be best to report them to your network carrier. Several countries provide the option to report spam by texting the number 7726 (which actually spells SPAM). Some have their own procedures on how to report spam.
In addition, you can also archive the messages deemed as spam as part of reporting them. That way, urgency can be implemented.
- Protect your personal information always
Businesses will sometimes ask for their customers’ information, and spammers can also use the same method to invade their privacy and utilize their data for personal profit. Be careful on sharing your personal information, such as birthdate, address, and numbers, to prevent them from falling into the wrong hands. Treat your personal data as precious as your personal wealth.
As for spam messages, never reply and give your information to them. And if they require your personal data, verify their messages first with the relevant companies.
- Review your mobile phone’s settings
Thankfully, your mobile phone provides options to block specific numbers and prevent you from receiving spam messages or unwarranted calls.
For iPhone users, navigate Settings and press Messages. Find the option “Filter Unknown Senders” and turn on the setting to detect spam. For Android users, click on the three-dotted icon on the right-hand side and find Settings. Under that option, find Caller ID and click “Spam.”
- Never click suspicious links
Unless those messages are from verified enterprises, refrain from clicking links on the SMS. Like spam mails, those links may lead to malware-ridden websites or even install viruses that can collate personal information from your mobile phone. These viruses can also hamper your phone’s performance by eating up memory.
Links through SMS are always shortened to fit the character limit, disallowing any verification of their authenticity. Ergo, never click them.
- Browse through your phone bill
One way to spot spammers is by browsing through your phone network bill. Examine if the charges and transactions reflect your actual use and that you’re paying the right amount. If they do not match your usage, confirm with your network and inquire if your number has received or sent spam messages. You can always rely on your local provider’s assistance whenever spams become prevalent and high-risk for security.
If the messages have the option for you to opt-out or unsubscribe, whether they come from a legitimate source or not, then follow through with the instructions to stop receiving the messages. As mentioned, several outlets will provide an opt-out option for users or the option to text “unsubscribe.” However, if their messages continue to circulate, a better cautionary step is to resort to blocking the sender’s number.
- Block SMS with no numbers
This is the easiest way to spot and stop a spam SMS. Senders can be hard to block when their messages contain no number attached, but that can be handled.
For iPhone users, open the spam message and call with the info provided. Once it rings, drop the call, open the Recents pane, and block the caller. For Android users, block the message by using the Block Phrases option.
- Update passwords to personal accounts
Whether it be your password to your online bank accounts or your social media profiles, spammers may try to decode through several loopholes and gain access to your personal information. As much as possible, regularly change the passwords of any account you possess. Ensure such passwords are easy to remember but hard to decipher.
- When necessary, file a complaint
Finally, if the senders have reached the point of interference, you have the right to file a complaint to your country’s respective telecommunication agencies.
For SMS users based in the U.S., the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) can process complaints against SMS spam as a violation of consumer protection. For this step, users must be proactive in following up their complaints until immediate action has been taken.
With many individuals already tuning in to their mobile phones, it can be easy to cast mobile ads as routine displeasure. But now, being savvy in SMS usage, we have to be wise consumers on our own right to prevent annoying ads from making us fall victim to scams.
Users also have to be aware of the various channels they knowingly or unknowingly subscribed to. It is best not to always engage with any text promotion to not flood your inboxes with unnecessary texts. And most importantly, treat your mobile phone and your personal information like money—never let another person have a hold on them.