Xbox's messaging system has a bot spamocalypse on its hands right now

Xbox Live spam messages
@OllieNorris offers a glimpse at the spampocalypse. (Image credit: @OllieNorris on Twitter (X))

What you need to know

  • Microsoft's Xbox console platform (Xbox network, formerly known as Xbox Live) has a messaging system baked in to allow players to communicate. 
  • Recently, players have been noticing a large upswing in spam messages, trying to encourage users to click on nefarious links or visit Temu pages. 
  • You can block non-contacts from being able to message you using Xbox's privacy settings, but it makes connecting with new players a little fiddly. 

One of Microsoft's biggest contributions and innovations in the gaming space is Xbox Live. The platform was a vision of a centralized social community specifically for gaming, allowing players of all types of games to build friendships and connections over the internet. These days, we take a lot of these types of features for granted, since literally every platform and service in the world seems to have some form of messaging system baked into it. Many forget that it was Microsoft who pioneered and popularized a lot of these types of systems, dating all the way back to MSN Game Zone in the 90s. 

Xbox continues to innovate, with things like Xbox Game Pass, and the Xbox Series X|S, but its messaging systems haven't evolved too much for quite some time. As Xbox has matured, one thing that Microsoft has been struggling with, across the board honestly, is spam messages. Whether it's the junk email in Outlook, or unwanted messages on Skype, the spampocalypse is already here. It's not unique to Microsoft either. You need only look at Twitter for five seconds for an example of how much of a problem bot-created spam content is becoming, and thanks to AI, it'll probably only get worse. Even Xbox isn't safe. 

Recently, Xbox users have noticed a sharp upswing in the amount of spam message requests coming through on the Xbox network. Generally, these will slip into a subsection called "Message Requests" in your messaging, if they're from unknown users. The sheer volume that some users have experienced has led to legit messages simply getting buried in an avalanche of hundreds of spam messages, most with some kind of scam attached. 

One such example from @OllieNorris on Twitter (X) and others reads like: "Hey, sorry to bother you. I have an extra $15 Xbox code that I don't need if you want it. I can send it to you if you download the app temu create an account, and then in the search bar in the app type in [scam code]." Another friend of mine remarked that messages only seem to come through when they're online, although it's unclear what can "trigger" the messages, or expose your account to them. 

Gamers are generally a tech savvy lot, and Microsoft doesn't exactly make it easy for scammers to produce results from dropping messages via the Xbox network. It goes without saying that if you receive a message on Xbox from an unknown place, offering money or asking you to click on a link, that you should absolutely not click on it. 

Microsoft's link-screening tech will automatically block most scam links. There are probably millions of scam messages being blocked on a daily basis that users will simply (and thankfully) never see. The fact Xbox's messaging system is also attached to Windows 11 via the Xbox PC app also makes it a more susceptible target potentially, given Windows' open nature. I haven't seen many of these types of messages on my end. It is irritating when they get through, though. 

Turn up privacy settings to block them 

Head to Xbox's account privacy settings, select your user, head down to "Others can" section, and block messages from "everyone" to prevent incoming spam.  (Image credit: Windows Central | Jez Corden)

You can block external messages on the Xbox network by adjusting your privacy settings. You can do this by signing into your Microsoft account over here on Xbox's account website. If you set your incoming messages to friends-only as shown above, it should mitigate the amount of incoming spam messages you see. 

You'd think thank if AI systems are able to generate content for bots, that Microsoft and other platform holders would be able to use AI to create more intelligent junk filters. Perhaps they already did, and we're just seeing slivers of the spam bots that manage to cut through. 

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The internet in general has a spam problem. You can see it on any social media platform you use. It starts with annoying messages, but potentially leads to phishing links, viruses, and later, misinformation. How do you prove someone is a human on the internet? Xbox network messages is a microcosm, but it's a small slice of a much bigger global problem. In the age of AI, the problem will only get worse, most likely. 

Jez Corden
Co-Managing Editor

Jez Corden is a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by tea. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his XB2 Podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!

  • Gabe Szabo
    The big "AI Company" should maybe think about not letting newly registered, 0 Gamerscore "players" send messages to strangers? Ah, but it must be much harder than that. Right?
  • NoLifeDGenerate
    Gabe Szabo said:
    The big "AI Company" should maybe think about not letting newly registered, 0 Gamerscore "players" send messages to strangers? Ah, but it must be much harder than that. Right?

    I've always said the privacy settings need a simple "Friends AND Recent Players" option instead of just friends only on both platforms. Problem solved. I don't want contacted by randoms I've NEVER been in a game/lobby with, whether they have gamerscore or not. Why can't we have intelligent limitations instead of the brain dead ones that keep allowing all this spam?