Correction to This Article
This Help File column incorrectly says that among major carriers, only Verizon Wireless allows subscribers to change their cellphones' e-mail addresses. AT&T also provides this option.

Fast Forward's Help File

By Rob Pegoraro
Sunday, December 2, 2007

Q All of my phone numbers are on the Do Not Call list, but my cellphone keeps getting junk text messages -- which I have to pay for! Is there any way to prevent this?

AEveryday junk e-mail is annoying enough, but SMS spam is far worse. At best, the messages are covered by your text-messaging plan's quota; at worst, each one costs you 10 or 15 cents. Either way, they cause your phone to beep or buzz, and then they waste your time as you read and delete each of these irrelevancies.

But you are not without recourse. If someone starts sending this garbage to your phone, call your wireless carrier and ask it to waive the charges. You shouldn't have to pay for this junk.

Second, you can limit the kind of messages that reach your phone by logging in to your carrier's Web site and changing your account's text-messaging settings. You can usually block individual subjects or senders -- although, because SMS spam, like e-mail spam, varies all the time, that's unlikely to provide long-term relief.

You can also try to limit how text messages reach you. Most carriers (but not Sprint) let you reject messages sent from e-mail accounts or Web sites, the source of most SMS spam, while continuing to accept text messages from other phones.

If some people do regularly e-mail your phone, your best option may be to set up a new alias for it that doesn't feature your phone's number, then only accept messages sent to that address. (For instance, people would have to send a message to yourname@wirelesscarrier instead of the more easily guessed address 2025551212@wirelesscarrier.) But among the major carriers, only Verizon Wireless offers this option.

If spam texting follows the history of spam e-mail, carriers are going to have to step up their junk-filtering efforts.

Rob Pegoraro attempts to untangle computing conundrums and errant electronics each week. Send questions to The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 Turn to Thursday's Business section or visit anytime for his Fast Forward column.

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