Three ways to kill SMS spam once and for all

Pranav Dixit July 11, 2016 4 min

My phone’s SMS inbox is a minefield of free pizza offers, cashbacks on groceries, and free glasses from Lenskart, which sends me about a dozen messages each week despite multiple complaints.

Normally, I just let these things pile up — seriously, when was the last time you opened your SMS app? — but having my phone ding constantly multiple times a day only to see yet another offer for free pizza gets on my nerves.

High-five if your SMS inbox looks like mine
High-five if your SMS inbox looks like mine

Is there a way to fix this menace? You bet. Here’s everything I didn’t do that you absolutely should.

#1 Get your number in the Do Not Disturb Registry 

Look, the Do Not Disturb Registry has been around for good few years now, and while people have had mixed results — the SMS marketers still find their way to you somehow! — there’s no reason not to get your number on there in any case.

Doing this is easy. For starters, text START 0 to 1909. This, theoretically, will block every single marketing SMS. Spam begone!

If, for some reason, you want to continue getting blasted by spam from just a few categories — because hey, who doesn’t like free pizza once in a while? — you can do that too. Here’s an SMS cheat sheet, courtesy telecom regulator TRAI:

“START 1” for receiving only Banking/Insurance/Financial Products/Credit Cards related messages.
“START 2” for receiving only Real Estate related messages.
“START 3” for receiving only Education related messages.
“START 4” for receiving only Health related messages.
“START 5” for receiving only Consumer Goods and Automobiles related messages.
“START 6” for receiving only communication/broadcasting/entertainment/IT related messages.
“START 7” for receiving only Tourism and Leisure related messages.

You can also call 1909 instead of sending an SMS to let an interactive voice response system guide you through the process.

If the TRAI Gods hear your prayers, you should stop getting all spam within seven days.

The TRAI, by the way, also offers a worst case scenario procedure if none of the above works. Send the following text message to 1909: “The unsolicited commercial communication, XXX, dd/mm/yy” where XXX is the telephone number that you received the SMS from or just the header (usually something like VK-648004 or DM-DOMINO). Not sure why they chose that particular sentence construction, but hey, it sounds super official, and TRAI promises to look into it extra seriously and get back to you within seven days with a solution.

#2 Gotta block ’em all — one by one 

This method is a bit painstaking, but guarantees instant blockage, no matter how seriously the TRAI takes your complaint.

On iOS, open the spam SMS you want to block, hit Details on the upper right, tap the ‘i’, scroll down to the bottom of the page, and tap ‘Block this Caller’.


If you’re on Android, your phone may offer a way to do this depending on which version of the operating system you’re on, and which handset your using (seriously, you just have to dig around and check — there is no clear yes or no answer, thanks to how fragmented the Android ecosystem is).

If your Android phone can’t block spammers out of the box, third-party apps like EvolveSMS and SMS Blocker will do the trick too.

#3 Keep it to yourself

One of the best ways to protect yourself against spam texts and telemarketing calls is to keep your mobile number to yourself. This might seem obvious, but doing this is getting harder and harder. The restaurant you just ate out at wants your number on the feedback form at the end of the meal; Wi-Fi hotspots in cafes require your number to send you an OTP to log on; heck, even the security desks at apartment buildings want you to enter your number in a logbook (I always use a fake one).

It’s not always possible to decline giving out your number — if you’re shopping online or booking a flight, especially, there is no way around it — but you can minimise the damage.

Do you have a favourite way to block SMS spam? Post them in the comments below. I’ll send you an SMS if I like yours.