Every day, about 45 million spam text messages are sent to North American cellphones. If you don't have a text message plan, you'll pay around 20 cents for each one you receive.
The real cost comes if you respond to those messages.
At least 70 percent of all cellphone text spam is designed to defraud you in some way.
Spam in text messages may try to guide you to shady websites that will install "malware" on your phone to vacuum up all the personal data stored in it. Or the messages may urge you to dial a phone number where your personal and financial information is solicited. Whatever you provide is either used to steal your identity or sold to third parties who'll send you more spam texts.
For scammers, cellphone text messages are fast, cheap, easy and effective.
Here's how to protect yourself:
- Ignore instructions to text "STOP" or "NO" to prevent future texts. This is a common ploy by scammers to confirm they have a live, active contact for more cellphone spam and never dial call-back numbers.
- Forward the texts to 7726 (SPAM on most keypads). This will alert your cellphone carrier to block future texts from those numbers.
- Never store credit card or account log-in information in emails or notes on your cellphone.
- When you get a text promising you a $1,000 gift card, ask yourself: Would anyone really give me that? Know, too, that banks and other legitimate businesses don't send customers unsolicited texts.