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BBB warns of spam text messages

by jmaloni
Mon, Apr 11th 2011 01:20 pm

The Better Business Bureau has issued an advisory to consumers regarding unwanted text messages, scams and identity theft threats. Among its recent complaints have been reports of companies offering recipients free laptops, information about mortgage assistance, loan offers, and a variety of other services and products.

If you own a cell phone, chances are very good that you have received spam text messages. In recent days, scam artists lifted HSBC's good name in an attempt to dupe consumers into providing personal financial information, BBB reports. "These messages are not only annoying, consumers need to know they're not going to stop any time soon, and what they should do to protect themselves," said David Polino, Better Business Bureau president.

 Spam text messages generally violate the CAN-SPAM act - a federal law that sets the rules for electronic advertising. The Federal Trade Commission took action last month against one man who had sent more than 5 million text messages in a 40-day period to pitch loan modification, debt relief and other services. Recipients of the messages were sent to a website that falsely appeared to be a government site. According to the FTC, the scammer sold contact information he received from consumers who responded to the texts - even those asking for the messages to stop - as leads to third parties.

"Unwanted text messages that hook people into the scheme can be an unwanted expense and even threaten your personal identity," added Polino. "The first rule of thumb is to delete unknown messages and control your communication to any business. When you send the message, you have assurance that you can trust the reply."

The BBB offers the following tips to help consumers avoid spam texts:

•Never reply to unknown text messages that you receive. If you respond, you are providing verification that the cell number is active and are more likely to receive future spam.

•Report the text immediately if it appears to be from your bank, the IRS, or any entity asking you for confidential account numbers or other personal information.

•Call your cell phone provider and instruct them to block the phone number from which the texts or calls originate. You also have the option to block all messages from the Internet, since most spam text messages originate from there. This block would only block email originating from the Internet, but not block mobile-to-mobile messaging. If you have a smart phone, there are various apps that can block spam.

•Give your cell phone number only to people whom you trust. Avoid providing it online as a condition to take a survey, play a game, etc. Your number could be sold to marketing agencies without your prior knowledge.

•Register your number on the Do Not Call Registry. Federal law prohibits telemarketers from calling your cell phone, but you can still register it at donotcall.gov.

•File a complaint with the Better Business Bureau at bbb.org.

•Notify the Federal Trade Commission (ftc.gov or 1-888-382-1222). Although the FTC will not pursue your individual complaint, your experience is valuable for their records. If you get spam email that you think is deceptive, forward it to [email protected]. The FTC uses the spam stored in this database to pursue law enforcement actions against people who send deceptive email.

For further information, contact Peggy Penders at 800-303-4490.

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