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“How shall freedom be defended? By arms when it is attacked by arms, by truth when it is attacked by lies, by faith when it is attacked by authoritarian dogma. Always, in the final act, by determination and faith.”

― Archibald MacLeish

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Globe and Smart: STOP Spam Text Messages!

Spam texts are a modern scourge, plaguing our mobile phones with unwanted adverts, often from dodgy companies.
Text spam driving you crazy?
Ding. Ding.

It's 3 a.m. and your phone starts making its instantly recognizable, impossible to ignore, you-just-got-a-text sound.

Your heart starts pounding. Is a loved one hurt? Is there some crisis at work?

You reach for the night stand, pick up the phone and read: "Your number was selected as our iPad winner of the day! Enter 'IPAD' here to redeem!"

Refrain from hurling your phone across the room. Also, refrain from trying to acquire that iPad.

As you probably know, you are not really a winner of the day, you are the victim of mobile phone spam, a modern, insidious annoyance that is growing at an unacceptable rate.

American cellphone owners received 4.5 billion spam texts last year, according to Ferris Research, a market research firm that tracks mobile spam. That's more than double the number of spam texts received in 2009.

If unwelcome texts are driving you insane, you are not alone. The FCC reports that unwanted telemarketing calls and texts were consistently in the top three consumer complaint categories in 2011.

Having your personal mobile space interrupted by a text you didn't want is always annoying, but some of these spam texts are downright dangerous. If you want to claim that "free" iPad, or a $1,000 Wal-Mart gift card, you'll often be asked to divulge personal information that the spammer may sell to marketers or, worst case scenario, use to access your bank account.
And if you think replying "STOP" to the message will make it all go away, think again. Any reply to the message will only confirm that the spammer has hit on a working cellphone number, and he or she can sell the number to marketers.

Even if you choose to ignore the texts, they can still show up on your phone bill with charges as high as $9.99 per unwanted text.

Text spamming is illegal under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, and the FTC is fighting some of the most egregious text spammers in court, and major mobile carriers are investing in spam-fighting technology.
Mobile phone spam is a form of spam directed at the text messaging or other communications services of mobile phones. It is described as mobile spamming, SMS spam, text spam, m-spam or mspam.
As the popularity of mobile phones surged in the early 2000s, frequent users of text messaging began to see an increase in the number of unsolicited (and generally unwanted) commercial advertisements being sent to their telephones through text messaging. This can be particularly annoying for the recipient because, unlike in email, some recipients may be charged a fee for every message received, including spam. From Wikipedia
“Do you need up to $1,300 today?” I was recently asked. Except for perhaps Mark Zuckerberg, who doesn’t?

Unfortunately this question wasn’t asked by a friend; rather, it came to me in a spam text on my cellphone.

The offer was for a “payday loan,” a type of high-interest cash advance that many states have banned. And that wasn’t the only thing about the message that was questionable from a legal perspective.

Spam text messages, like spam e-mails, are illegal to send to consumers who haven’t actually asked for them. Under the federal Can-Spam Act, companies must follow certain guidelines when sending bulk commercial electronic messages, whether they’re e-mails or texts.

Spam texts often promote the same types of schemes seen in junk e-mails. In January, CTIA, the wireless industry’s trade association, wrote to the Federal Communications Commission complaining about a recent onslaught of political spam texts, from both major parties. And following the links in some spam texts can ensnare you in scam subscriptions that show up on your phone bill, or even infect your phone with malicious software.

Spam text messages are easy for businesses and charlatans to generate. They’re not tapped out by individuals using mobile phones, but often come from computers, using programs that send out text messages to every conceivable telephone number, automatically.

To do so, they send an e-mail using a phone number and the mobile service’s texting address. For example, to send a text message from a computer to a Verizon mobile subscriber, you would take the phone number and append @vtxt.com. AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and others have their own similar text message addresses.

If you are signed up to receive texts from a legitimate company and decide you no longer want them, you can typically unsubscribe by texting “stop” back to the sender. But to spammers, this is often just a signal that your number is valid. And if you’re not on an unlimited texting plan, you’ve now paid for two texts: the one received and the request you sent to cancel.
A computer boss exposed by The Mail on Sunday for allegedly bombarding Britons with half a million spam text messages every day has been charged under the Data Protection Act.
Jayessh Shah boasted to an undercover reporter that his IT firm had sent huge numbers of messages telling people they were entitled to free refunds on the payment protection insurance policies they had taken out.
Anyone who responded to the texts, including those who indicated that they did not want to receive any more, was regarded as a ‘lead’ by Shah, and their mobile number was sold to a claims management company for £7.50.
Shah told our reporter he had made millions of pounds out of his business, and claimed he was immune from prosecution as it operated from outside the UK.
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has now told The Mail on Sunday it has charged Shah with lying to them about what he did with people’s personal data – an offence under the Data Protection Act.
All companies that operate in Britain and handle details such as personal names, addresses and phone numbers are required to tell the ICO what they do with the information.
Shah registered his IT company, called Vintels, with the ICO, but allegedly failed to declare it sold personal data to other companies.

From ABS-CBN News
MANILA -- It seems no one is spared from receiving text messages from unknown people offering credit cards, "health cards" or alleged business opportunities.

The messages include: "Free premium assessment on Caritas Healthcard. Reply with name, age, address and preferred hospital if interested," or "Our company is now hiring. We are glad to look for a new business partner and associate."

These messages are called spam texts, which people dismiss as nuisance. But what people don't know is where the SMS senders got their personal phone numbers.

The SMS senders, also known as spammers, buy phone numbers and other private information by the bulk from unscrupulous employees of companies willing to sell them, for a price.

Spammer "Sasha," who sells real estate, said she and others like her buy around 5,000 to 7,000 cellphone numbers from certain companies.

The price ranges from P1,500 to P3,000 per transaction.

"Hindi tsamba ang pagtetext. May mga kumpanyang nagbebenta ng bulto-bultong listahan ng cellphone numbers natin," Sasha said.

"Ia-alok nila sa amin iyan, 'Uy may bago akong listing.' Bibilhin namin iyon. Iyung huli kong bili was P1,500 for 7,000 numbers."

Sasha said she buys her listing from telecommunications companies, a golf and country club, and others.

Aside from cellphone numbers, spammers also buy email addresses and other personal data.

Sasha said she sends spam text messages to earn a living.

"Kung makabenta, may porsyento pa sa kita pati ang taong nagbenta ng phone number," she said.

"Nakakairita man, kailangan kasi naming makabenta. Mag-text ka ng 100, baka may 10 magreply. Sa 10 magreply, baka may isang makabili," she added.

"Karaniwang gawain na ito ngayon ng mga taong nagbebenta ng iba't-ibang produkto. Pero tingin ko ipinupuslit lang ito ng mga pinagbibilhan namin at hindi talaga pinahihintulutan ng mga kumpanya," she revealed.

According to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), some banks use machines that can send thousands of messages for them.

"It's a marketing arrangement no different from billboards, or posters. There is a machine that can be legally purchased to send messages automatically. On the surface, hindi ito iligal, pero pinag-uusapan kung baka pwedeng magkaroon ng guidelines," BSP Assistant Governor Johnny Ravalo said.

SMS spam messages are illegal under the Cybercrime Law, which remains suspended following a temporary restraining order slapped by the Supreme Court.