Spammy ads are invading Google Messages — here’s how to get rid of them

Armed with RCS, Google Messages is the current face of the company’s longstanding quest for a worthy messaging app. While the multipurpose SMS app now has the features to rival the likes of WhatsApp, it still fails in one key area — staying on top of mounting SMS spam. That’s especially true when the sources are verified business accounts that have been hassling scores of Indian users lately with spammy in-chat advertisements within Google Messages.

While Google and ads usually go hand in hand, the search giant has little part to play in this case. Several pushy financial services brands have been exploiting their verified business privileges to spam users (or anyone whose number they have) with rich media ads in Google Messages over the last few months. Kotak Mahindra Bank, Bajaj Finserv, Buddy Loan, and PolicyBazaar have turned out to be the biggest offenders.

Spammy ads are invading Google Messages — here's how to get rid of them Spammy ads are invading Google Messages — here's how to get rid of them Spammy ads are invading Google Messages — here's how to get rid of them

Moreover, this isn’t limited to Pixel or Android One users, as the Messages app now comes as the default SMS app on many OEM phones. Some Samsung phone owners have also seen these ads in their preinstalled SMS app, leading us to believe that the RCS protocol is being used to relay these ad banners.

So, how do we get rid of these spammy ads in Google Messages?

Turning off rich chats

A settings option in Google Messages called Chat features is what enables the app’s RCS capabilities. Simply turning it off will be a fool-proof way to keep these pesky companies out of your SMS inbox for good. Inside the app’s Settings menu, tap on General > Chat features and toggle the Enable chat features off. This should do the trick and your standard SMS services will continue to work as normal.

Spammy ads are invading Google Messages — here's how to get rid of them Spammy ads are invading Google Messages — here's how to get rid of them Spammy ads are invading Google Messages — here's how to get rid of them

Turn off the toggle highlighted in the rightmost screenshot.

Since RCS messaging hasn’t made great strides compared to more universally accepted apps like WhatsApp in India, turning the feature off shouldn’t be a big deal for most users. But if you’ve started to rely on the advanced chat features, there are a couple of alternate solutions that you can try instead.

Blocking/unsubscribing

Some of these companies have been courteous enough to offer a straightforward way to unsubscribe from these ads like you would with mailing lists. In the case of Kotak, you’ll be offered an in-chat option to take your phone number off its list. But if you don’t see the button, you can always block the senders from forwarding you any more crap.

To do that, tap on the business profile, and there you’ll find Block & report spam under the Options tab. Select it and tap Ok.

Spammy ads are invading Google Messages — here's how to get rid of them Spammy ads are invading Google Messages — here's how to get rid of them Spammy ads are invading Google Messages — here's how to get rid of them

Left & Center: Blocking a sender.  Right: Button to unsubscribe.

Neither of these methods is as reliable as the disabling RCS altogether since individually blocking businesses won’t prevent others from sending more spam. Plus, you’ll have to manually go through each of these senders to block them, which could take a while if you have many companies targeting you. And with unsubscribing, there’s still a chance that a company may decide not to honor your request, leaving you in the lurch.

Switching SMS apps

I personally hadn’t seen any of these ads — or any marketing SMS, for that matter — until some disgruntled users emailed us about this spam practice. That’s because I switched to Microsoft’s much more capable SMS Organizer a few years ago and haven’t looked back since. The app automatically filters marketing and spam messages to a separate folder, for which I never get a notification — and all of this happens entirely offline. The app does lack RCS capabilities, but that works in its favor in this case.

SMS Organizer
SMS Organizer

It’s getting harder by the day to keep your phone number safe from invasive companies when every app you download requires your personal details to even let you in. At least it’s possible to keep these ads out of your inbox using one of these methods.

  • Thanks:
  • Himanshu,
  • Gurkanwal,
  • Samarth,
  • and Yash Raj