I recently started getting text messages from an unnamed company offering me no win, no fee accident compensation claims.
I don’t know how they got my mobile number, but how do I stop the messages - should I text back?
Matt Jackson, via email on 20 October 2011
Thanks for your question Matt, but I’m afraid to tell you that it’s not a surprise that you are receiving unwanted text messages that you didn’t sign up for, trying to sell you something you don’t want.
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), the public body that deals with data protection, reported last month that complaints about spam text messages have shot up this year.
On top of this, and further explaining the type of text you received Matt, survey results published in June by the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) found that 43% of mobile users had received unsolicited spam texts promoting accident claims or mis-selling financial products.
As you’re probably well aware, spam emails, also known as junk emails, are unsolicited emails sent in bulk, which are usually trying to promote some manner of product or service - anything from miracle weight loss drugs to penis enlargements.
There is also the more sinister side of spam email, such as those attempting advance fee fraud, which usually claim to be from the second cousin of a Nigerian prince asking for you to send him money to help him recover the prince’s vast riches, which he will of course share with you.
There are also phishing emails, which will attempt to con you into handing over sensitive information such as your bank account number and pin by pretending to be from your bank or a similar organisation. Even the chancellor of the exchequer, George Osborne, isn’t immune. A flurry of emails, purporting to be from the treasurer himself, recently hit inboxes promising payment of outstanding funds of over £900,000 to the recipient’s account - you simply had to provide your full contact details to get the cash...and a copy of your passport; what could be safer?
Spam text messages, while generally far less sophisticated that email spam, is basically the mobile equivalent of it.
Let’s defer to Mark Brill, chair of the mobile marketing council at the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), who spoke to Mobilechoices.co.uk last month on this one.
“A third of it is the more malicious type,” said Brill, “which is clearly not opted in to and is trying to solicit services through essentially illegal means.”
So what does this mean to you? Well, at the very least, receiving constant unwanted marketing texts that you have not asked to receive can be ruddy irritating - you think you’ve got a text from that hot lass you got talking to last weekend, and it turns out to be yet another message from Ambulance Chasers R Us.
Spam text messages are far more intrusive than spam emails because your mobile phone is, as Brill described it, a “highly personal space” - junk emails can land in your email inbox all day long and you won’t know until you log in to your account, but spam text messages will have your phone beeping or vibrating in your pocket or bag all day long.
At worst, spam text messages could see you out of pocket. For example, a popular form of more malicious spam texts are those that will encourage you to call an expensive premium rate number in order to claim a prize.
One victim of spam text messages told BBC Radio 1’s Newsbeat last month that he began to receive up to 10 texts a day and was eventually forced to change his mobile phone number by taking out a new contract.
Thankfully, with complaints about spam text messages on the up, mobile networks as well as organisations such as the DMA and ICO have begun to look into how spam texts can be stopped, and more advice is available on what you can do to stop them as a result.