THE BLOG

Text Spam Is a Plague That Mobile Users Can Help to Stop

25/01/2013 11:01 GMT | Updated 25/03/2013 09:12 GMT

I've had many conversations with professionals and consumers alike who have received mobile spam, both here in the UK where I live, and in the USA. Some had only received spam once or twice, while others receive it several times per week. Here at Cloudmark, we decided to dig further into the state of mobile spamming in the UK, by conducting a survey in order to find out what mobile subscribers think about spam. The survey found how spam is really becoming a plague to mobile phone users in the UK; a telling statistic was that almost 64 percent of people who use text messaging had received spam in 2012 and yet very few knew of any practical methods to help prevent it.

Sending unsolicited spam is against the law. Those who are sending you text messages or sharing your data without your permission are conducting illegal activity. Tetrus Telecoms has recently paid the price, with a fine of £440,000 by the Information Commissioner's Officer (ICO) because they had been sending large volumes of unsolicited text messages for years without the consent of the recipient and without identifying the sender.

Should users know how to help prevent spam (rather than just deleting it)? I would say yes. Like anything you need to raise awareness of, the people's voice matters and criminal activity like sending spam can be prevented if enough people help to report it. Ignoring the spam text doesn't make it go away and texting 'Stop' only works with text alerts that you have legitimately signed up to. In fact this response has the reverse effect for spam texts - merely confirming that your number is live and encouraging the spammer to continue to target your phone.

So far, spam texts in the UK are considered to be merely annoying, however, as also evident in the US, mobile spam may start out as simply annoying, but over time it becomes more malicious, with people being duped out of thousands of pounds in replying to messages falsely claiming to offer help with PPI claims, or offering 'free' gifts that turn out to be anything but.

Mobile spam is a vicious circle that needs to be broken as the spammers that run these campaigns are making a living from duping you and selling your data to fellow spammers. More often than not, the snippets of personal data you offer in the hope to 'win' or 'claim' a prize is being used by unscrupulous third-parties to send even more spam.

So what is the right approach? Report it to your carrier and help them to help you. As few as 10% of the users from our survey would actually take the correct action by reporting spam to their mobile operator, even while 94 percent of mobile texters in the UK think that the operators is responsible for preventing it. Mobile operators are doing their best to protect you against mobile spam but they cannot eliminate it if you do not tell them about it.

If you are receiving spam, I would strongly urge you to forward spam texts to your mobile operator via "7726" (which spells out "SPAM" on the keypad), or 37726 for customers of Three UK.

Further, some UK operators are subscribed to the GSMA Spam Reporting Service (powered by Cloudmark), which collates comprehensive spam reports with detailed information on spam content and senders, enabling them to block the numbers sending the spam, thus helping to reduce the problem further.

It is an on-going battle, but this is one way that you can make difference to help yourself and others from receiving these messages in the future.