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FTC Shuts Down Text Message Spammer

CTIA and our carrier members are constantly monitoring their networks for SPAM text messages so they don’t end up in your inbox. Unfortunately, spammers are constantly evolving to try to get by the carriers’ filters.

That’s why we were pleased to help the FTC with an investigation of a text message spammer.

According to the FCC compliant, the alleged spammer sent more than 5.5 million unsolicited text messages. This amounts to more than 85 spam texts per minute, every minute of every day in 40 days. By sending out the SPAM messages, the FTC believes the spammer violated the FTC Act and the CAN-SPAM Act by not providing a way for consumers to “opt out” of future messages.

Due to his actions, the FTC has asked a federal judge to freeze his assets and shut down his operation.

If you receive an unsolicited message that doesn’t include an “opt out” option, file a CAN-SPAM complaint with the FCC.

Learn more about CTIA and the wireless industry’s commitment to protecting consumers by visiting our policy topic.

14 Responses to “FTC Shuts Down Text Message Spammer” Leave a reply ›

  • avatar

    That is good that the FTC is watching this. Receiving spam texts is very frustrating.

  • avatar

    I'm glad they shut them down, but I still want to know one thing......Why do we have to opt-out of something when we never opted-in? Anything sent without us requesting it should be spam, regardless of them showing the "STOP" instructions at the bottom. They've still cost me for a text I didn't want and it's still spam. And they don't necessarily opt you out. They just change to a different short code.

    • avatar

      You are right. When I sent STOP to 55330 it never happened. When I sent message back to them telling then they've been reported to the FCC, they sent another shortly after that. Next after an hour later similar text came in from 31778, and they sent another right after ai sent the word STOP. They've both been sending a long string of number following" / //TF " in the quotes, but without the quotes in the message.

      I don't see what purpose it will serve them to change the number and continue to send other than jsut trying to annoy people. I'm also on the Do Not Call List for several years.

      • avatar

        31778 is TracFone (and their other brands such as Net10, StraightTalk). Are you on that system? Did you switch any SIM card with a phone from that system?

        The "long string of numbers following //TF" is probably data for updating the phone itself, and normally would not be visible to phones on that system. In fact, phones on the TF system do not charge for messages from that code, because the messages are used only for phone updates and responses from TF for service confirmations, etc.

        If the above does not explain why you receive such messages, just call TracFone and tell them about receiving such messages in error -- I'm sure they will want to correct this.

  • avatar

    The "opt out" idea is broken - as noted above, the spammer need only change to a different short-code and then spam you again.

    If you're lucky, it accomplishes nothing.

    If you're not lucky, it confirms to the spammer that you actually read and respond to their spam, so you end up getting more spam than you would have otherwise.

  • avatar

    I agree, out out is broken but the industry is making strides. Take for example the open sms email gateways. Almost every major cell provider offers an email sms gateway. With no short code at all a spammer can send emails to your phone just by sending it to yournumber@yourgateway.com.
    But SMTP email to cell phones are highly unreliable and heavily protected. The normal SMS protocol is SMPP which requires a special gateway. Users usually have to buy credits at an average price of $0.11 each to send sms texts via these gateways. Gateway providers offer a wide range of solutions including Short Codes. Getting a short code can take up to 8 weeks and an applicant can still be denied if their software and systems dont meet criteria. Once a short code is attained, it is a valuable although expensive, tool to the avid mobile marketer. Similar to the DEA license a pharmacy has, sms providers do not want to jeopardize their time and money by spamming with their short code.
    The Federal DNC Registry was supposed to help but sells its list to telemarketers. I'm not sure how that is supposed to protect me. I dont list with the registry and I dont get telemarketing calls, go figure.
    SMS Spam is not as well known as email spam accounting for only about 1% of SMS traffic in the United States. In India, where unlimited texts are the norm, SMS spam consumes 30% of the total SMS traffic. By comparison, here in the United States about 70% of email traffic is spam.
    Thanks to the work of the FCC, Cellular providers and telecoms, SMS spam is not a daily concern of most Americans.
    With that said, the majority of bulk sms user are not actually spammers but companies with Opt-In lists who send millions of sms texts daily to people who are happy to receive them. Kudos for using proven and effective and ethical mobile marketing strategies. It makes the world a better place. I get sms texts from my local pizza shop whenever they have a special, about once a week. I love it and wouldn't trade it in.
    FCC, please keep up the good work of weeding out the bad seeds so I can enjoy the messages I want from the people who use the systems ethically and legally.

  • avatar

    I never "opted-in" for TV commercials nor can I "opt-out". How come they're not being stopped for the SPAM coming in on the channels of the TV I paid for? Why isn't the FTC pursuing them? Kinda makes me think that they're just going after the "little guy" because he can't buy them off in DC like the others. Does a txt msg really hurt you? Is it as influential as a TV ad that you see a dozen or so times per day? Isn't telling someone what they can do/not do for advertising a complete violation of that person's free speech? If you selectively apply laws as most ignorant, white, christian americans do, then you yourself do not deserve those same protections if you will not allow them to all. Grow up americans you have much bigger issues going on then worrying about someone sending you a text message.

    • avatar

      You are incorrect. When you agreed to your TV contract and selected your stations, you "opted-in" to receive the content transmitted by those stations, including commercials.

      In a contract, both parties receive "consideration".

      With your "the TV I paid for" contract, the vendor receives your money as their consideration. As your consideration, via a connection (cable, satellite, etc.), you can select various TV stations from which to receive transmissions. The content of those transmissions may include movies, news, sports, commercials, etc. You willingly chose to enter into a contract to receive those transmissions.

      I would have thought someone as smart as you would realize this.

      And, considering that you are smarter than everyone, I have a humble request. Please contact the less intelligent people at the TV stations and provide them with the brilliant concept you must have, in which they can eliminate commercials yet still raise money so that they can transmit your favourite programs.

      On now, onward...

      With a phone contract, the vendor once again receives your money as consideration. The consideration you receive from them is to simply act as the carrier of your transmissions. Specific content is not a factor, in regard to the contract.

      Of special note, most often the contract sets specific limitations (volume, size, etc.) for the various types of transmissions allowed. Exceeding those limits entitles the vendor to additional consideration (typically at a much higher rate than the original package).

      Quite often, a contract includes a limit on the number of text messages one can receive. Therefore, spurious messages (AKA spam) are, for the most part, unwelcome, as they can potentially cause an additional charge to be incurred by the phone's owner, if they cause the owner to exceed their threshold for total number of text messages allowed.

      Here's a parallel example of sending spam messages:

      Suppose the post office decided they were no longer going to charge any companies for delivering their advertisements (AKA junk mail). Instead, they would charge the recipient a fee for each piece of mail put into their mailbox. Sounds ridiculous, doesn't it? Bordering on absurd? It's scary to think of the potential cost the recipient would incur as more and more companies take advantage of this free advertising.

      Now, simply substitute the physical mailbox in this scenario with a virtual mailbox on a phone. This is the concept you are defending, SmarterThanYou. You call it "free speech", when in fact, it is actually "paid for by the other guy" speech?

      On a final note, I'm not sure why you attributed this particular issue, in a predjudiced manner, to a particular segment of society, but let me assure you that the issue is being complained about worldwide, to all of the telecom companies.

  • avatar

    I agree spam should be kept off the SMS channel, and understand the concept of "opting In" for customers. My problem (as a content provider) is the CTIA and NeuStar make up more red tape that sometimes does not make sense. Yet, the third party of the content providers have no say on the new rules that affect how customers use our services. It is just like a cable company and tv manufacturer telling ABC, CBS, NBC the criteria for what type of shows need to shown to customers. Content providers should have more say on the new rules for the SMS channel (THEY ARE SHARED CUSTOMERS), keeping us in the closet will only go on for so long. I can see why many content providers are now turning to FaceBook and Twitter and scaling back on SMS, because of the red tape, costs and hassle.

    • avatar

      We recognize some of the requirements may be unnecessarily burdensome and are working to eliminate what isn’t needed so we can focus on what’s most important to consumers. We welcome your suggestions (support [AT] USshortcodes.com) on how to improve the SMS channel for both consumers and marketers.

      • avatar

        Re: Red Tape

        @Amy - Really? No offense, but can you point to specifics? In my dealings with the CTIA, they come across as maids with white gloves, tasked with touching-up the neatly kept affairs of short code marketers. 6 months after your post, I still only see red tape.

        I hear little about shutting down VOIP, long-code and SMTP gateway offenders. *Please* put down the white gloves and pick up a toilet brush. Given the premium we pay for the right to use the short code channel, we deserve that.

        @Hans, what steps have you taken referenced in your comment, "we work very hard to stop people..."

        Thank you

  • avatar

    Stop crying and grow up

  • avatar

    I am excited to see this. We work hard to educate our customers on what is the best way to engage your customers via text message. We also work very hard to stop people that use VOIP or long codes to send marketing messages. Short codes is the only way to send "for profit" or revenue generating marketing message to an opted in database.

    Again great job!

    Thanks,

    Hans Hegge
    CEO
    Text Ripple, Inc

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