back to article Payment protection tops list of SMS spam scams

AdaptiveMobile, a company which spends most of its time filtering out junk SMS messages, has written up a list of the scams hitting GSM handsets, with mis-sold payment protection insurance topping the list. The spam texts differ significantly from the usual email spam in being more direct, claiming intimate knowledge of the …


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  1. Tezfair

    carriers being lazy

    Im sure it would be very easy to block a number where SMS's being sent are greater than say 1000 per hour. Not even kids thumbs can bash out that may txts.

    As long as the carrier gets paid they have no interest to kill this income stream.

    1. JetSetJim

      Re: carriers being lazy

      And then you'd need to code the for exceptions that are the legitimate marketing companies that are permitted to SMS their clients (with appropriate opt-in/out mechanisms). You could probably implement a whitelist easily, or add the naughty ones to a blacklist, though - just saying it's not quite as clear-cut as you propose.

    2. jonathanb Silver badge

      Re: carriers being lazy

      A pay as you go SIM with sufficient credit to get the unlimited texts costs something like £10 - £15. If you can send out about 744,000 texts per month, which would be within your limit, on that SIM, it is still worthwhile doing.

      Having said that, 1000 texts per hour is probably about the limit that even a computer can send them out. Even if you spend no time at all typing the text, it takes a couple of seconds between pressing the send button and the phone going through the motions of sending the text so you can send the next one.

    3. Peter Simpson 1

      Re: carriers being lazy^H^H^H^Hgreedy

      And that is exactly what I suspect is happening. The carriers are accepting something under the table, and supplying an internet gateway for SMS spam.

      Here in the US, they seem to have moved on to autodialler spam with spoofed caller ID, sent through several layers of obfuscation: an out-of-country autodialler which plays a recorded pitch, then (sometimes -- very unreliably) passes you to a call center located who knows where, which then takes your information and passes it on to some local "franchisee". It's all a scam of course, I don't believe it really is ADT offering me a discount alarm system -- all they want is my credit card number and my address. But there's a lot of money involved -- I get several of these calls a week -- different recorded sales pitches from the same autodialler number. They're running non-stop and it's been many months now.

    4. DB2k

      Re: carriers being lazy

      Its not as simple as that - imagine a spammer with 100 computers all with sims sending sms out at a rate of 1 every 10 minutes per device for instance... This is what happens as often as not, not just your "flooding" example. Its a very complex problem.

  2. David Gosnell

    contractual responsibility to deliver messages which have been paid for

    If SMSes are unlimited, what is the unit cost per message to be refunded in the event of filtering?

    (Yes, I know there are other ways of looking at the maths)

    1. DB2k

      Re: contractual responsibility to deliver messages which have been paid for

      SMS is not a guaranteed service - its contractual to attempt to deliver it. Not to deliver it.

      And if it breaches the terms of use - then the carrier doesn't have to attempt to deliver it at all.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    give us customer configured filtering

    I always understood SMS was a best efforts service with no guarantee of delivery.

    Even then why not just give us tools like some of the US operators have so I can logon to my account and add filters either based on the sender number or phrases such as PPI. Any such sms messages are 'delivered' to my trash bin on my account.

    This would not only stop spam text messages but also help prevent sms based bullying and stalking.

    Pretty simple to implement too just like it would have been easy to provide customers with an opt out so their voicemail could not be rung to listen to messages from anywhere but the mobile thus preventing the whole phone hacking scandal.

    1. DB2k

      Re: give us customer configured filtering

      That would require SMS Home Routing where the message is passed from the originating network, via the terminating networks SMS before delivery. In a CDMA network such as in the states, this is how SMS works. In a GSM network, like the UK, the flow is for the originating SMSC to deliver the message directly to the recipient via the attached MSC.

      Home Routing of SMS is not something that happens (yet) in the UK as it adds a massive cost to networks. Where as before the network would only have to serve its own customers, it then has to serve all the messages originated by other networks too. So no.. its not "pretty simple".

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: give us customer configured filtering

        So no.. its not "pretty simple".

        It is if the so-called "smart" phones most of us have these days could do local filtering. Most don't/can't/won't.

  4. Tom_


    Why can't I just set my phone to only accept sms and/or calls from numbers on a whitelist that I control?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Whitelist

      My droid allows you to block numbers. Phone accepts the message, checks the blocked list and bins commincations from those numbers. Done!

      1. User McUser

        Re: Whitelist

        That's not the same thing.

        What the OP wants, as do I, is default-deny + whitelist, not default-allow + black-list.

        1. mickey mouse the fith

          Re: Whitelist

          On rooted Android phones, Lbe security master (the full fat chinese one, google translated on xda, not the one on the play store) does sms keyword blocking as well as blacklisting/whitelisting of numbers among other things.

          Theres an option to only allow messages from people in your contact list, which is quite handy for filtering out mr singh and his unclaimed millions.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Big companies are the ones seeling the numbers.

    I applied for a PPI mis-sell recently. I did not do this via another company or by entering my details in a website. I did this by contacting the people who mis-sold this to me directly.

    Guess what I started to get the next day? Yes, PPI claim spam. Coincidence? Maybe, but not in my book.

  6. tony2heads


    As it cost me to send an SMS (but not to receive) how does their cost of this scam relate to the benefit they get from replies?

    Someone please enlighten me

    1. DB2k

      Re: Cost

      a positive repsonse to a PPI nets the spammer a significant amount of money as a referral fee to a legitimate PPI business. Whether the claim is successful or not, the spammer gets a cut up front. That is how they make money.

  7. Conrad Longmore

    All the same person..

    Most of these spams seem to come from the same person, it seems. I think they're about to be hit by a massive fine from the ICO.. watch this space.

    1. Da Weezil

      Re: All the same person..

      ... and of course that fine WILLbe paid wont it? *sigh*

      The Privacy In communications legislation isnt working in this area.

      Until the networks take this problem seriously - it cant work.

  8. Alan Brown Silver badge

    Who's behind most of it

    One Gary McNeish, judging from what several people have dug up.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Don't give your mobile number to those you don't know.

    Don't be entering stupid competitions or surveys etc...

    I don't get ANY SMS spam!

    And now you know why.

    1. Tom_

      Re: EASY

      Because you've been lucky so far.

    2. Da Weezil

      Re: EASY

      A new sim and number after a network move saw me getting spam within 24 hours.. before I had started notifying people that I had moved networks.

      Sometimes the simple explanation doesn't cover it.

      I'm more inclined to believe that this crap is sent by "sequential number group".

      Fines are no deterrent they need jailing to stop the convenient bankruptcies getting them off the hook.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: EASY (Da Weezil)

        I've had two cell phone numbers since 1993. I only had the 1st one for 2 days because its previous owner obviously owed a lot of people a lot of money.

        Yes, but unless you were the first person to ever have that number.... your kilometerage may vary.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: EASY

      Very lucky I have a phone that only me, my wife (via her address book) and our my works automated system knows, I only use it for receiving sms and yesterday it got its first spam, they just send to random number sso everntually you will get spam regardless of whether or not it is registered anywhere much like the good old smtp dictionary attack.

  10. Peter Simpson 1

    Network operators can stop this if they want to

    "For the network operators, spam texts present an interesting problem too, as they have a contractual responsibility to deliver messages which have been paid for."


    They know d@mn well who is sending these messages and can nip it in the bud when and if they choose -- simply by looking for one number sending tens of thousands of messages a day -- how many can there be?. And since the carriers write the terms and conditions for service (oops, sorry, your unlimited data plan isn't really unlimited), they can change the rules at any time. Do you really think the "lads" are going to bring suit because their SMS spam is blocked? These SMS spam are all scams anyway. I haven't seen one from what I would call a reputable business yet; they're all [hot dates now, need money fast?, you have already won!] or variations of the same.

    1. DB2k

      Re: Network operators can stop this if they want to

      Its very hard actually, especially when you have commercial propositions on the network offering say 5000 SMS for £5. These can be purchased by anyone and used by a spammer, and if they have many many of these they can throttle the spamming from each SIM, but still achieve high levels of message sending making it significantly harder to trace. And if its PAYG how do you phisically locate them? Well, you can't.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Network operators can stop this if they want to

        It wouldn't be hard to put baysian filters on SMS servers - but it'd cost money in terms of programmers/admins and beefed up hardware to handle the messages.

        SMS is a gravy train for telcos (you don't actually think it costs 20p/message do you? Telcos can make a profit when charging less than 1p/message) and anything which cuts into the profts has a hard time getting past the beancounters.

        I have to admit I've been tempted to completely shut down SMS on my phone. If enough people started doing that citing spam, the networks would take action.

  11. Alan W. Rateliff, II
    Paris Hilton

    txt STOP 2 optout

    Much like the days of olde when spam was a periodic nuisance and not a massive deluge, when I receive text spam I notify my carrier. The number may be forged but their system can trace it back to its source if its within their network, or to the network from which it was delivered. It takes a couple of minutes if you can get someone who knows the process. Otherwise, I get some silly twit who tells me to just answer "STOP" to the original message, to which I answer I am not going to validate my number by doing such a thing.

    It would be nice if carriers would provide an easy mechanism, such as an online form, to automatically report text spam. It couldn't be as simple as forwarding the message as, like email not forwarded as an attachment, doing so loses its "headers." That is, the original number is lost. The online form has its weakness, too, as people tend to make mistakes and the contents of the text may not be exactly what was sent.

    The delivery conversation made me think of someone's signature in another forum about UDP jokes: I don't care if you get it or not.

    Paris, a periodic nuisance.

  12. DB2k

    in the UK you can forward SMS to SPAM which is 7726 (altough that makes little sense for smart phones so just use the short code).

    On Three that number is 37726.

    This doesn't block it, but it does give the operator a way to investigate the issue, and which post submission, should result in a reply asking for the MSISDN which sent the message in the first place, since as you correctly state - it is lost in forwarding a short message.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Me, i respond..

    With something like...

    "According to my records, you lot are a bunch of spamming cunts, now fuck off you set of wankers".

    I tend not to get replies to that as they clock on that i'm not falling for their bullshit...

    Yes, i know its the worst thing to do, replying, but i dont care...They will know i'm not worth their time to respond.

    Fuck em.......

    Eee, i love employer provided phones! ! !

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