Posted By RichC on April 10, 2008
Even though sending unsolicited commercial text messages on cell phones is illegal, SMS spam is increasingly finding its way to your cell phone. I have been ignoring the occasional beep during the day and just delete them as is so common with computer based email. Unfortunately the problem is growing just as they did on fax machines in the 90s and computer based email the last couple of decades. The problem should have improved when the Federal Communications Commission made “spamming” illegal in 2005, but if my email box (and now cell phone) is to be the judge, the problem is growing and spammers are not being deterred.
In fact, according to Farris Research, we’ll receive 1.5 billion spam oriented text messages this year, which is up 800 million since 2006. The unsolicited messages are not only a nuisance, but can be costly (a la carte text cell phone plans). In my case, I’ve recently added a cell phone to my account for my mom and dad. They barely understand caller id, voice mail and one touch dialing … let alone text messages. Mom nearly had a coronary when the phone beeped and sent her a text message offering “sexual enhancement medication” the other day. I told her just ignore the nuisance, but I think she’s ready to get rid of the phone?
Besides offering unsolicited products, customers with limits to their text messaging are often charged up to 20 cents to receive these emails. Most carriers do their best to block spam, in fact Verizon Wireless claims to block 200 million spam text messages per month. My question, if there is a law making it illegal to send spam, wouldn’t you think at least at least a few senders of those 200 million messages would be prosecuted? Perhaps a crackdown and a three strike rule would be helpful since the current law doesn’t seem to be making an impact.
The current trend in sending spam text messages that really is starting to annoy me, is that they are often sent at night. Most of us have our phones on in case of an emergency or even as an alarm clock — especially those of us who travel. Unfortunately a spam text will trigger the phone to send whatever ring-tone might be set. Last night was a good example … B-E-E-P … about 4:30AM I was offered a great deal on a cruise. Grrr. Interestingly the advice of experts is to add your phone to the National Do Not Call List … which mine has been on (along with our home phone) for over a year. Both numbers still receive phone calls and obviously I’m still receiving spam text messages. I’ve reported phone numbers as they occur, but don’t notice a way to report unsolicited SMS messages?
Other advice is not to give out your cell phone number as phone lists from sign up logs, etc. are often harvested by telemarketing companies and spammers. Some of these sign up lists often have you agree to approving text message advertising or phone calls. (legal under the 2005 law)
One of the challenges of filing a complaint with the FCC and with the cell-phone company is that consumers needto help identify spammers so they can be stopped. This is nearly an impossible task for all but the most sophisticated geek. I’m all ears for suggestions, especially from someone who has successfully made an impact against companies sending unsolicited text messages.
On the other hand, here’s some positive news … 🙂
“Spam King” Robert Alan Soloway, who owns Newport Internet Marketing Corporation, pleaded guilty on Friday in Seattle’s U.S. District Court to mail and e-mail fraud and willful failure to file a tax return.
Soloway could receive up to 20 years in prison and over half a million dollars in fines when he is sentenced on June 20 by U.S. District Judge Marsha J. Pechman. The bulk of Soloway’s sentence is likely to come from the mail fraud offense, which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. E-mail fraud is punishable by up to 5 years in prison. Willful failure to file a tax return is punishable by up to a year in prison.
Assistant United States Attorney Kathryn Warma said she hopes that Soloway’s fate will deter further spamming. “We’ve only just begun,” she said. “Spamming is of high interest to the federal law enforcement community and we’re going to be doing more cases. Hopefully, they’re going to get the message now.”