Block Cell Phone Spam

- From the Desk of David Pogue -----------------------------------------

How to Block Cellphone Spam

If I told you that today's e-column would change your life,would you mind that it's sort of short?

The story goes like this. A few weeks ago, in my blog(, I wrote this:

"OK, now I'm really, REALLY annoyed. Within a week, my wifeand I have both started getting spam text messages on ourVerizon cellphones. I know that this is nothing new, butit's new for us, and it's apparently getting worse."

According to Wikipedia, this sleazy practice is describedas 'mobile spamming, SMS spam or SpaSMS, but is mostfrequently referred to as m-spam.'

It's actually far worse than regular e-mail spam, for threereasons.

First, you generally can't delete it withoutopening it first.

"Second, you have to pay for it. (And, of course, thesenders pay nothing, since they can send text messages froma computer's e-mail program for nothing.)

"Third, there's no way to stop it. You can't install ananti-SMS spam program on your cellphone.

"If you're not feeling helpless and livid already, if you'renot already storming your carrier and Congress, I can thinkof only one reason: you haven't been m-spammed yet. Butyour time will come."

Shortly thereafter, I heard from an AT&T representative whorevealed the presence of an astonishing little-knowncellular feature: you can block cellular spam.

"Our customers can get onto our Web site," he wrote, "andset their handset so that it receives no messages from theInternet, the origin of the vast majority of wirelessspam."He also said:"Text messages sent from the Internet are addressed asfollows: [Your 10-digit wireless number]"What spammers try to do, of course, is attempt to guessyour number, largely by trial and error.

This brings me tothe second capability we offer our customers. Let's say youwant to block spam, but still want to receive messagesoriginating from the Net that you would actually finduseful (airline schedules, hotel reservations, etc.). Forthis purpose, we let you replace your wireless number withan alias. It could be some quirky name, or whatever youlike. [You share this address only with people you know.]This could disrupt the guessing game spammers play to tryto discern your number and sent you their junk."Though not perfect, our efforts have helped keep spam inthe category of minor, though annoying, phenomenon. Thanksfor listening."

The beauty of this feature, of course, is that it blocksONLY text messages from the Internet. Your friends, usingcellphones, can still text you.

As it turns out, Verizon Wireless offers these features,too. Sprint and T-Mobile don't go quite as far, but they dooffer some text-spam filtering options. Here's how you findthe controls for each company:

* AT&T: Log in at UnderPreferences, you'll see the text-blocking and aliasoptions. Here's also where you can block messages fromspecific e-mail addresses or Web sites.

* Verizon Wireless: Log in at Under TextMessaging, click Preferences. Click Text Blocking. You'reoffered choices to block text messages from e-mail or fromthe Web. Here again, you can block specific addresses orWeb sites. (Here's where you set up your aliases, too.)

* Sprint: No auto-blocking is available at all, but you canblock specific phone numbers and addresses. To get started,log in at On the top navigation bar, clickMy Online Tools. Under Communication Tools, click TextMessaging. On the Compose a Text Message page, under TextMessaging Options, click Settings & Preferences. In thetext box, you can enter a phone number, email address ordomain (such as that you want to block.

* T-Mobile: T-Mobile doesn't yet offer a "block textmessages from the Internet" option. You can block allmessages sent by e-mail, though, or permit only messagessent to your phone's e-mail address or alias, or createfilters that block text messages containing certainphrases. It's all waiting when you log into and click Communication Tools.

As soon as I heard about all this, I went to the VerizonWireless page for my own account and turned on the "block"options.And you know what? We haven't had a single piece ofcellphone spam since.

You're welcome.