Dozens of Spam Text Messages Are Sent to You Every Day – You Just Don’t Know It

FCC blog telephone

You wouldn’t know it, but dozens of spam text messages are sent to your phone every day – they just never make it there. That’s because mobile carriers and messaging providers like Zipwhip block them before they reach you. And we block a lot of spam; in October, for example, we identified 21 percent of text traffic as spam.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced that in order to help us keep limiting spam text messages, the FCC plans to classify texting as an Information Service. This FCC ruling – taking place later this morning – will mean that providers can continue to scan for and block unwanted content, meaning you’re not spammed.

If texting were instead designated a Telecommunications Service, as some parties have lobbied, the spam floodgates would open because providers would have no way to monitor for it. To put it into perspective, phone calls are classified by the FCC as a Telecommunications Service, which means that carriers have limited ability to block malicious phone calls and automated robocalls. That’s why robocalls are so pernicious today.

But since texting hasn’t been defined as a Telecommunications Service like phone calls have, we’ve been able to block that kind of content over text. Providers like Zipwhip protect you from malicious fraud attempts and spam text messages through automated monitoring systems, which flag suspicious content and route it to a fraud analysis team for review. If they spot a phishing scheme, spam or some other form of fraud, they can block the text before it gets to you.

Take DIRECTV as an example. DIRECTV sends out thousands of legitimate texts to its customers every day, and we know that because those messages pass through Zipwhip’s network. Last fall our automated monitoring system noticed that thousands of texts including the word “DIRECTV” were being sent from phone numbers that aren’t registered with them. Our fraud analysts looked into it and discovered that bad actors were sending scam text messages to DIRECTV customers in an attempt to trick them into giving the fraudsters money:

“Get your discount today with AT&T DIRECTV and SAVE upto 50% on your bills. Hurry up, call today at [XXXXXXXXXXX] with your promo code:ebay. AT&T DIRECTV”

Because our systems could audit the content of these messages, we blocked them before they had the chance to scam consumers.

Another key way providers can filter content and block spam is by monitoring for the word “STOP.” If a consumer does not want to receive more texts from a business, all they have to do is reply STOP and our network will block any future messages from that organization. The number of STOP responses a business receives in response to their outbound texts can be an indication that they’re sending spam and other unwanted content. Our systems recently flagged that one business received thousands of STOP messages in a matter of minutes. Our analysts looked into it, discovered that they were spamming consumers and blocked them from distributing more malicious messages.

Attempts like this are on the rise because scammers are catching on to the effectiveness of texting. We carry our smartphones with us all day and immediately pick them up when we hear that “ding.” That’s what makes texting so special and so valuable for a business that wants to get in touch with a customer (for the right reasons). And it turns out that consumers want to text more, too. We just published research showing that nearly 75 percent of people said they wished they could communicate with more businesses through text.

If we let scammers take advantage of texting and its ability to prompt an immediate response, the power of the medium will diminish, and it will become yet another place where we have to dodge unwanted communication from dishonest businesses. But by classifying texting as an Information Service, the FCC will enable messaging providers to continue to protect consumers against spam and fraudulent messages. Stay tuned to Zipwhip’s blog after today’s FCC ruling for more information on how texting regulations affect you and the precious phone in your pocket.

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