Getting more unwanted text messages and emails? Here’s how to fix it

If you feel like you’re getting a lot more spam these days, you’re not alone. Spam calls and spam text messages have increased in quantity during the COVID-19 pandemic, with 5.9 billion spam calls reported in June 2021, an increase of 11%. Spam texts did not increase as much to 7.1 billion (a 1% increase), although complaints about spam texts increased 146%.

The number of spam emails is even more staggering, with 122.3 billion sent every day, although most are intercepted by spam filters. Truecaller, a well-known caller ID and spam blocker app, also confirmed that there has been an unprecedented increase in robocalls and spam texts, with around $ 29.8 billion lost. because of fraudulent calls over the past year.

For the record, we have certainly noticed an overall increase in spam, as well as an increase in the amount of spam passing through spam filters. Besides being boring, we also need to be vigilant to make sure our devices don’t get compromised and our invaluable data doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.

But with so many technologies and algorithms available to block spam, why are we still receiving these emails and texts in 2021? We asked industry professionals what they think about spam.

How do spammers get my information?

Rafael Henrique / SOPA Images / LightRocket via Getty Images

You receive spam messages because someone has access to your email address or phone number. Think about how often you provide your phone number or email address when checking out online, signing up for something online, or signing up for a rewards program in a store.

“A lot of these service providers have been violated, and consumers don’t even know it. There is no way for a consumer to get their information back after a breach, and that’s when it gets leaked to automated calling services for a lot of money, ”Digital Trends told Digital Trends. Rick Lazio, former congressman and now senior vice president of cybersecurity consultancy firm Alliant Cybersecurity.

It really is that simple. Even if you practice good data security, there is no way to keep your phone number and email from circulating around the world. It’s just the cost of modern living and convenience.

Why you are receiving inappropriate spam

If you’ve ever received an NSFW (Not Safe for Work) spam message that contained a completely inappropriate subject, you are not alone.

“While everyone receives spam, there has been a slight increase in the receipt of ‘inappropriate’ or ‘dirty’ spam text messages and emails,” said Rizwan Virani, CEO of Alliant Cybersecurity. “Bad actors know what they’re doing. The purpose of sending spam and phishing messages is to trick the recipient into opening, clicking, or providing information. When it comes to dirty spam, bad actors are successful with this type of messages and as a result they are sending them at a much higher rate than ever before.

Even if someone responds “stop sending this to me,” then the spammer has engaged the recipient, which provides a way for them to further mine and collect data.

Spam and regulatory issues

Another reason we keep getting spam calls and emails is that the laws are slow to catch up with online crime, and spammers are using this to their advantage. “There is little or no legislation from a cybersecurity or data privacy perspective that allows law enforcement to prosecute the criminals who committed the breach… or allow users to protect their data. Says Lazio.

“These are all rapidly evolving issues that Washington is trying to resolve,” Lazio continued. “At Alliant Cybersecurity, we also see the benefit of a consumer private right of action against providers who purchase the data and / or a steep increase in the penalty for the same (up to $ 5 million, per example) if the police are catching up. . And maybe even a whistleblower provision to get the people inside these companies to shine the light. “

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) allows people to file complaints and has initiatives to combat robocalls with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which allows you to register with the national do not call registry. The FCC has also engaged in enforcement action, sending cease and desist, and imposing fines. However, part of the problem is that the spam problem is just too big for the FCC to handle on its own. “Closer coordination within the agency and between federal and state partners can help combat this consumer epidemic,” said FCC President Jessica Rosenworcel as part of her statement on launching a Robocall response team.

How to tell if a text or email is spam

Unwanted call.

If you weren’t expecting a message from this person or company, it could be spam. Other signs of spam are:

  • A sense of urgency in the message
  • Bad grammar or spelling in the message
  • The message contains a link to click
  • The message asks for your personal information or asks for money
  • Sender’s email address is from a personal email, but it claims to be a business
  • You don’t recognize the number, but the sender is pretending to be someone you know

What to do if you receive a spam message

If you receive a message that you believe is spam, do not engage with the sender in any way. “The best practice in dealing with spam is to leave it alone and delete it. Don’t answer or call the sender’s phone number, ”says Virani. “Fortunately, opening an SMS is safe at the moment. That said, clicking on links, images, responding to text, and providing additional information does. Instead of opening the text message, to begin with, play it safe and delete it.

If you are not sure whether or not a message is spam, contact the person or company directly and ask if they have contacted you. If you receive a message from your bank, for example, and you are not 100% sure that the message is from your bank, call your bank directly and ask if they have texted or e-mailed you. mails.

Which devices are the most vulnerable?

Whether you’re on Android or iOS, there are ways to prevent spam, but some devices can be more vulnerable than others.

“Phone operating systems come with their own risks and vulnerabilities,” says Virani. “Android phones are actually riskier due to the variety of different operating system versions among Android phone manufacturers. The best practice here is to make sure your phone is up to date with the latest software. It is also imperative to understand what mobile apps you have on your phone. Mobile apps also contain new code and new vulnerabilities. Make sure to update your apps and remove the ones you don’t use regularly.

How to prevent spam

Truecaller app.

In addition to third-party identifiers and spam blockers like Truecaller, many mobile carriers offer spam blocking services as a separate app that you can download or as an additional subscription service. One such example is T-Mobile Scam Shield, which is available for free to customers and offers scam identification, scam blocking, and caller ID services. Verizon offers a similar call filter to filter incoming calls, and Call Filter Plus, which requires a subscription but includes caller ID and a block list. Finally, AT&T has AT&T Call Protect, which allows you to block spam calls and unknown numbers, as well as identify the risk of spam. The Call Protect Plus upgrade requires a monthly subscription, but it adds caller ID, reverse number lookup, and more granular controls over what categories of calls are allowed.

Pixel device users can also use Google’s AI-based call filtering to filter spam calls and block automated callers. Most of the default phone dialers on Android and iOS also have call blocking options, allowing you to create your own call blocking list and offering a way to export that list when and if you change. ‘device.

Clean up your data

Beyond these basics, we also asked Patrick Ambron, CEO of BrandYourself, about other ways to help prevent spam. He suggests going directly to data brokers and people search sites to opt out so they can’t sell your data. It also recommends deleting old accounts and protecting your active accounts.

“While we might not want to admit it, a lot of us still have that old MySpace account we lived with in high school but hadn’t thought of in decades,” Ambron said. “While it may sound harmless, these accounts are still at risk of a data breach, which would make all the personal information they contain accessible to spammers on the dark web. We recommend that you audit all of your email accounts, new and old, to make sure all old social media accounts are disabled. Tools like BrandYourself’s account remover or mine can automate this process for you for free …

“Take advantage of sites that offer two-factor authentication, which many are doing today. Use password managers like LastPass or OnePassword to create complex passwords that are easily accessible, so you don’t constantly reset them. Also take advantage of the new privacy options that sites like Facebook or Google have started to offer. Turn off tracking toggles manually or use tools like JumboPrivacy to do it for you. VPNs and ad blockers are great additional tools to limit the amount of data tracking while you are browsing.

Practicing good data hygiene from the start is obviously the easiest, but the next best option is to clean up old zombie accounts and delete profiles and services that you no longer use. It can be tedious, but the less personal information you have circulating online, the better.

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