Spammers moving from email to the cellphone


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By Mark O’Neill

This article in the New York Times really struck a raw nerve with me because it is a touchy subject in my life at the moment.     The article is about spammers who are moving their harassment from emails to the cellphone (or mobile phone if you are in Europe).    Never a day goes by without my phone buzzing with the latest spam SMS message.   In fact the last message was five minutes ago so I am still fuming a bit.

The biggest offender in my case is, ironically enough, my mobile phone provider!   T-Mobile is sending me countless SMS messages getting me to change calling plans, telling me of new promotions, and on and on.   I keep calling them to complain ferociously (and trust me, I am a ferocious complainer).    But still they keep on coming….it’s getting to the point where I am about to change phone providers.    But who’s to say it will be any better with the next crowd?

I have also had spam SMS messages from German pornographic phone numbers, the kind of which normally flood the television stations late at night.   How they managed to get my mobile phone number I have no idea.

The biggest problem with mobile phone spam seems to be that, unlike email spam, there’s no filtering in place.   There’s no “mark this as spam” button to stop it coming through in the future.    Plus, some plans make you PAY to accept these messages!    Luckily I don’t pay to accept SMS messages so I am not suffering financially otherwise my Scottish blood would be really boiling!

Do you suffer from cellphone / mobile phone spam?   If so, what have you done (if anything) to stop it?   What kind of spam have you received?







25 Responses to Spammers moving from email to the cellphone

  1. the bit that realy get me is that t mobile text me every saturday morning to tell me I have free calls over the weekend at 7am, I have to leave my phone on because I’m on call but it won’t let me block these bullshit texts

  2. the bit that realy get me is that t mobile text me every saturday morning to tell me I have free calls over the weekend at 7am, I have to leave my phone on because I'm on call but it won't let me block these bullshit texts

  3. I use T-Mobile, and have never received a spam text message from them at all. Maybe it is a preference in your account that you have to change.

    However, I agree – text message spam would really piss me off. But just like regular spam, there will eventually be filters available that keep it to a minimum.

  4. I use T-Mobile, and have never received a spam text message from them at all. Maybe it is a preference in your account that you have to change.

    However, I agree – text message spam would really piss me off. But just like regular spam, there will eventually be filters available that keep it to a minimum.

  5. I once got a spam on my cell phone about six years ago at 3 am in the morning. I phoned my cell phone provider, Telus here in Canada to discuss this. All they could do was to turn off SMS messaging unless it came from another cell phone. That’s been working quite nicely for me ever since.

    It would be academically interesting to have all those email spams sent to a standard email address just to see what kind of cr*p I would’ve received. But not interesting enough to actually see if they could do this. Which is highly unlikely.

    As I use a pay as you go service, which costs me $25 per two months, I only get a message reminding me every two months to put in some money. And it comes at a reasonable time in the afternoon.

  6. I once got a spam on my cell phone about six years ago at 3 am in the morning. I phoned my cell phone provider, Telus here in Canada to discuss this. All they could do was to turn off SMS messaging unless it came from another cell phone. That's been working quite nicely for me ever since.

    It would be academically interesting to have all those email spams sent to a standard email address just to see what kind of cr*p I would've received. But not interesting enough to actually see if they could do this. Which is highly unlikely.

    As I use a pay as you go service, which costs me $25 per two months, I only get a message reminding me every two months to put in some money. And it comes at a reasonable time in the afternoon.

  7. I’ve never had a single piece of spam sent to my mobile phone. I’m very Vodafone. Do you think you’re doing or have done anything unique to make this happen, like repeatedly enter your mobile number at websites, etc?

    • My number appears on my own website so business clients can find me. I am certainly not phoning the German porno numbers!

      I definately don’t enter my mobile number into websites. If a website demands a phone number, I give them my Skype phone number.

  8. I've never had a single piece of spam sent to my mobile phone. I'm very Vodafone. Do you think you're doing or have done anything unique to make this happen, like repeatedly enter your mobile number at websites, etc?

    • My number appears on my own website so business clients can find me. I am certainly not phoning the German porno numbers!

      I definately don't enter my mobile number into websites. If a website demands a phone number, I give them my Skype phone number.

  9. I’m ‘very Vodafone’? What the..? : Should, of course, have been I’m ‘with’ Vodafone. Leave me alone. I’ve just woken up.

  10. I'm 'very Vodafone'? What the..? : Should, of course, have been I'm 'with' Vodafone. Leave me alone. I've just woken up.

  11. Ah yes, the thrice daily “hey, we can make your penis bigger” messages. And I can’t get pissed at Verizon, because it’s not their fault (at least, it had better not be). I’ve attempted the typical “STOP” message in reply like you would with a regular SMS spam message, but the ones I get are from email addresses so when I send “STOP” it bounces back with the good old undeliverable mailer daemon. GRRRRR!

  12. Ah yes, the thrice daily “hey, we can make your penis bigger” messages. And I can’t get pissed at Verizon, because it’s not their fault (at least, it had better not be). I’ve attempted the typical “STOP” message in reply like you would with a regular SMS spam message, but the ones I get are from email addresses so when I send “STOP” it bounces back with the good old undeliverable mailer daemon. GRRRRR!

  13. Ah yes, the thrice daily “hey, we can make your penis bigger” messages. And I can’t get pissed at Verizon, because it’s not their fault (at least, it had better not be). I’ve attempted the typical “STOP” message in reply like you would with a regular SMS spam message, but the ones I get are from email addresses so when I send “STOP” it bounces back with the good old undeliverable mailer daemon. GRRRRR!

  14. Ah yes, the thrice daily "hey, we can make your penis bigger" messages. And I can't get pissed at Verizon, because it's not their fault (at least, it had better not be). I've attempted the typical "STOP" message in reply like you would with a regular SMS spam message, but the ones I get are from email addresses so when I send "STOP" it bounces back with the good old undeliverable mailer daemon. GRRRRR!

  15. Ah, it reminds me with the same headache I have here in India. The problem here is, people working in or may be the service provider itself sells the mobile numbers/subscribers to other marketing companies. I have heard this from a friend working in the telecom company. 30% of the phone calls I get daily are marketing calls and they only call me when I am busy with something. :) Never reply to any SMS as that will prove you’r number is accepting SMS.

  16. Ah, it reminds me with the same headache I have here in India. The problem here is, people working in or may be the service provider itself sells the mobile numbers/subscribers to other marketing companies. I have heard this from a friend working in the telecom company. 30% of the phone calls I get daily are marketing calls and they only call me when I am busy with something. :) Never reply to any SMS as that will prove you’r number is accepting SMS.

  17. Ah, it reminds me with the same headache I have here in India. The problem here is, people working in or may be the service provider itself sells the mobile numbers/subscribers to other marketing companies. I have heard this from a friend working in the telecom company. 30% of the phone calls I get daily are marketing calls and they only call me when I am busy with something. :) Never reply to any SMS as that will prove you'r number is accepting SMS.

  18. While I understand the problem (I recently dealt with it on my fiancée's phone)… I have to say that the solution is almost painfully simple.

    SMS messaging is really only a tool for the moments you can't talk, but feel you REALLY must communicate something at that exact moment. The trick is to realize that such times do not honestly exist, and then have SMS messaging completely blocked on your phone. This solution has worked for at least the 30-40 families I personally know who have used it. They are not hampered in any way by the loss of SMS messaging, and are in a lot of ways freed by it. The teens no longer have to respond to inane chatter from friends for fear of offending them, and the adults mostly never used it anyway (the few who did gained the same bonus as the teens by blocking it).

    Besides that, you avoid having to pay extremely high rates to send a few letters. The amount of data being transferred in an SMS message is minuscule, and the corresponding charges on your phone bill are outrageous when set next to the cost of wireless internet. Unlimited transfer plans can be purchased for only around $60 a month (which on average covers several to hundreds of megabytes per day with typical usage, but allows for hundreds of gigabytes over the month) whereas an "unlimited within-the-network and only 500 to others" plan, which is a typical offer (500 text messages = about 1 megabyte, typically less. So unless you text a heckuva lot in-network…) costs $5, which means that per unit of data, SMS actually costs somewhere around 20000 times more than other forms of data-over-cellular-network.

    (Those numbers were figured using $60 for the wireless internet subscription, which is unlimited but can be limited if the user is considered to be abusing the system so I used a limit of 250 gigabytes of transfer, which is actually an unrealistically low amount. For the SMS plan, I used a low $5 addon cost. After examining pricing options for several companies, most were charging between $5-10 more for plans with SMS, and even more for adding SMS to an existing plan. The data calculation for the SMS messages is accounting for a full 160 character message and a data header that doubles the size, which is unlikely See calculation info. I also assumed around 4000 text messages per-month, with none of them incurring extra charges. Seems logical since the average SMS user sends/receives around ten messages daily. All numbers here are approximate, as is the nature of this system… but all are logical and often in the favor of SMS, and it still performs terribly.)

    So why pay 20000 times more for data that really can't convey much of anything? Imagine if I'd tried to cram this into 160-character blocks… That's a ridiculous number of texts, and I haven't even gotten across all of the things I wanted to point out! Why pay for something that's nearly useless and marked up to ridiculous prices?

  19. While I understand the problem (I recently dealt with it on my fiancée's phone)… I have to say that the solution is almost painfully simple.

    SMS messaging is really only a tool for the moments you can't talk, but feel you REALLY must communicate something at that exact moment. The trick is to realize that such times do not honestly exist, and then have SMS messaging completely blocked on your phone. This solution has worked for at least the 30-40 families I personally know who have used it. They are not hampered in any way by the loss of SMS messaging, and are in a lot of ways freed by it. The teens no longer have to respond to inane chatter from friends for fear of offending them, and the adults mostly never used it anyway (the few who did gained the same bonus as the teens by blocking it).

    Besides that, you avoid having to pay extremely high rates to send a few letters. The amount of data being transferred in an SMS message is minuscule, and the corresponding charges on your phone bill are outrageous when set next to the cost of wireless internet. Unlimited transfer plans can be purchased for only around $60 a month (which on average covers several to hundreds of megabytes per day with typical usage, but allows for hundreds of gigabytes over the month) whereas an "unlimited within-the-network and only 500 to others" plan, which is a typical offer (500 text messages = about 1 megabyte, typically less. So unless you text a heckuva lot in-network…) costs $5, which means that per unit of data, SMS actually costs somewhere around 20000 times more than other forms of data-over-cellular-network.

    (Those numbers were figured using $60 for the wireless internet subscription, which is unlimited but can be limited if the user is considered to be abusing the system so I used a limit of 250 gigabytes of transfer, which is actually an unrealistically low amount. For the SMS plan, I used a low $5 addon cost. After examining pricing options for several companies, most were charging between $5-10 more for plans with SMS, and even more for adding SMS to an existing plan. The data calculation for the SMS messages is accounting for a full 160 character message and a data header that doubles the size, which is unlikely See calculation info. I also assumed around 4000 text messages per-month, with none of them incurring extra charges. Seems logical since the average SMS user sends/receives around ten messages daily. All numbers here are approximate, as is the nature of this system… but all are logical and often in the favor of SMS, and it still performs terribly.)

    So why pay 20000 times more for data that really can't convey much of anything? Imagine if I'd tried to cram this into 160-character blocks… That's a ridiculous number of texts, and I haven't even gotten across all of the things I wanted to point out! Why pay for something that's nearly useless and marked up to ridiculous prices?

  20. Also, I do not subscribe to comments on blogs like this unless I’m a regular reader. If you, the author, feel like discussing what I’ve just posted, please fire off an email. Unless your domain has been flagged by Gmail as spam (unlikely) I will read it and reply.

  21. Also, I do not subscribe to comments on blogs like this unless I'm a regular reader. If you, the author, feel like discussing what I've just posted, please fire off an email. Unless your domain has been flagged by Gmail as spam (unlikely) I will read it and reply.

  22. T mobile sucks. i left them after numerous fights over text message crap. They refuse to block text messaging period and give lame excuses that they can’t. That’s crap, they just don’t want to. First question I asked Alltel was can I turn of SMS and they said yes no problem.
    When someone used our cell phone #s on websites for sending spam t mobile refused to accept it even when I sent them links for such sites. Now I tell everyone I can how crappy t-mobile is. Not only have they lost a customer for life but gained an advocate for seeing their demise.

  23. T mobile sucks. i left them after numerous fights over text message crap. They refuse to block text messaging period and give lame excuses that they can't. That's crap, they just don't want to. First question I asked Alltel was can I turn of SMS and they said yes no problem.

    When someone used our cell phone #s on websites for sending spam t mobile refused to accept it even when I sent them links for such sites. Now I tell everyone I can how crappy t-mobile is. Not only have they lost a customer for life but gained an advocate for seeing their demise.