In the last several days, I’ve been asked to serve as a movie extra, been offered the same 20 percent discount at one home store over and over again and “won” multiple gift cards, all courtesy of the now nearly constant pinging of my phone. Thank heavens I have an unlimited texting plan.
According to Nicole Perlroth of The New York Times, I’m not alone. “Once the scourge of e-mail providers and the Postal Service,” she writes, “spammers have infiltrated the last refuge of spam-free communication: cellphones.” According to Ferris Research, a market research firm that tracks spam, consumers in the United States received roughly 4.5 billion spam texts last year, compared with 2.2 billion in 2009.
Both the Can Spam Act and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 2003 (the umbrella program for the Do Not Call Registry) ostensibly protect consumers, but the programs are difficult to enforce. Once a phone carrier blocks a spammer’s number, they can simply switch numbers to blast phone users from their automated lists.
And what seems like a harmless annoyance can actually have the potential for significant damage, Perlroth says. Computers generate millions of possible number combinations that don’t necessarily have to be working numbers – and spammers mass text across multiple service providers. The harm is done, says SmartPlanet’s Amy Kraft, when consumers think they’re unsubscribing: replying with “NO” or “STOP” may simply verify to the spammers that your phone number works.
What’s the responsible way to help cut this problem down to size? The mobile phone industry has joined forces with anti-spam software company Cloudmaker, and all major wireless carriers such as AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon have areas on their websites where you can report spam numbers. There are even apps that smartphone users can download to enhance spam filtering.
Have you been a victim of the spam texting epidemic? Know of a good trick to cut down on phone spam? Sound off here.