Verizon Won't Help You Filter Out SMS Spam Because It Makes Them Money

Why can’t people set up filters to turn off unwanted spam text messages, especially when they’re sent by unknown parties to a phone number that’s never been (knowingly) listed by the owner? Maybe it’s because Verizon gets to charge you 20 cents per message, suggests this reader who can’t figure out why her grandfather’s mobile number suddenly became a spam magnet after switching to a new Verizon phone.

Dear Consumerist,

My family and I wanted to relay a recent experience we had with the phone company Verizon. Over the last couple of months my grandfather’s phone started receiving e-mail and web-based spam text messages. His phone is part of our family’s plan, and he never put his phone number on the internet (for this reason) nor does he know how to send or receive text messages. Mind you this was a brand new phone with the same number, which had not received any sort of messages like these before the new phone. Just for clarification, he did not release his number before the new phone either.

We discovered on our phone bill that we were being charged for these spam text message at $.20 a text (up from the $.10 price just a few months ago). My mother spent several hours on separate days inquiring on how to turn off just the computer generated text messages. Even as the primary on the account, she was unable to turn them off. The salesmen in a local Verizon store stated that you could only turn off ALL text messages, not just web-based ones, which she knew to be untrue. She contacted the customer service at 611 and spent the many hours with tech support trying to accomplish this task. 611 was only able to help my mother when she had the phone in question on hand after registering an online account (at with Verizon for that specific phone (we had to make a new account for each phone) and provided the last four digits of her social security number. We had to repeat this process for each phone, which meant that phones had to travel from over an hour away so that we could do this for my grandfather’s and grandmother’s phones.

Our concern here is that Verizon is making big money off spam and this feature is nearly impossible to disable, even on the master account. The customer service has only occasionally reversed these charges. Somebody needs to step in (perhaps the FCC) and force Verizon to make disabling this feature far easier—like offering an uncomplicated, free option to opt out.

Long story short, Verizon should not be allowed to make money off spam.


A frustrated Verizon customer
(Note: this is the name my mother provided when talking with customer support)

We agree, and we think it would be fairly easy (but less profitable, which is why it won’t happen) to implement a policy that allows CSRs to automatically credit, no-questions-asked, any charges for text messages sent by companies, known spam IP addresses, or unlisted numbers. The number of jerks who would game the policy to get a few free text messages each month would be far outweighed by the goodwill earned from customers who will no longer feel Verizon’s taking advantage of them with sms spam.

(Photo: *nomad*)

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.