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'Opt out' of unknown texts? Replying could bring many more

Cell phone
Posted at 3:00 AM, Mar 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-08 08:52:03-05

Text messages can be a great way for businesses to remind you of appointments or tell you about some special deal.

You get them from pharmacies about prescriptions, doctors about appointments, and businesses promoting specials.

Text messages are easy — we respond faster than we do emails and scammers know it.

Ken Colburn of Data Doctors says just like emails, determining which texts are legit and which could be trouble if you click, is not easy.

"Did it come from a phone number or did it come from what's called a short code?" Colburn asks.

Short codes are five to six digits usually used by businesses — and Colburn says they are harder for scammers to mimic.

Ten-digit phone numbers are easier for scammers.

"So you want to really, really be careful about that," he says.

Being careful could mean trying to end future texts.

Most give you an option to text back "stop" or "opt-out."

But Colburn says that could just be a trap.

If it's a scam, texting back just validates that it's a good number.

"And your phone number is now going to be sold to lots and lots of other people because they confirmed it is a working system," Colburn says.

So what can you do?

If it's a five- or six-digit number, you can look up who sent the shortcode.

You can do that through the website U.S Short Code Directory.

Just put in the code, and if it's legit, it will show you the business that sent it.

Colburn says you can do the same thing going to Google, searching "text from" and the number.

That should bring up information about where the text came from.

If you can't find anything, it could be a scam.

Bottom line: think before you click or respond.

"If you're not sure who it is, don't respond. Just block them so a text can't come from them in the future," Colburn says.

Or maybe the easiest thing to do is just ignore it.

Taking an action to "STOP" may invite more.

The Federal Trade Commission offers more text advice.

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