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US Cell Phone Users Discover SMS Spam

CmdrTaco posted more than 11 years ago | from the its-only-gonna-get-worse dept.

Spam 314

The Llama King writes "It's a bigger problem in Europe and Japan/Asia, but as SMS text messaging or "texting" becomes more popular in the United States, its users are discovering that spammers like it too, according to this Houston Chronicle story. Cell phone companies are trying to stem the spam flood before it starts, worried that users will turn off their phones, thus denying providers revenue."

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only two things are certain in life.... (5, Insightful)

sweeney37 (325921) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325216)

"Unlike Internet spam, wireless phone spam comes with an annoying beep on your phone and a direct price tag," said Janee Briesemeister, senior policy analyst with the Consumers Union in Austin. "Consumers aren't just getting an annoying message they didn't want, they are paying 10 cents for it."

Perhaps because this will directly affect people's pocketbooks we'll see faster legislation. Not unlike taxes, when people start losing money, the louder they become.


Re:only two things are certain in life.... (4, Interesting)

caluml (551744) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325235)

You pay to receive SMSs? That's messed up.

Re:only two things are certain in life.... (1)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325302)

Not really. Some people have digital phones [not by choice] and don't buy a SMS plan.

Like me... I can still receive or send but I pay a premium because I don't pay 4$/mo extra for SMS features I don't want.


Huh? You have to pay *extra* for SMS? (4, Funny)

Moderation abuser (184013) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325323)

I new the US mobile system was fucked up, but I didn't think it was that bad.

Sure sounds like you're getting royally ripped off.

Re:Huh? You have to pay *extra* for SMS? (4, Informative)

Arjuna Theban (143564) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325476)

Yea, I pay $42 for 500 weekday daytime minutes, *unlimited* night (after 9 I believe, when I make most of my calls anyway) and weekend minutes, *all* including national long distance. And oh, I don't pay roaming anywhere my cell phone company has service, which is basically any metro area in the US.

Man, that's really fucked up isn't it? I'd much rather pay $0.50/min on every call I place like I used to when I used a cell phone in Europe a few years back.


That's still outrageous. (2, Interesting)

Inoshiro (71693) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325672)

It used to be you could get 200 day time minutes, 400 first-incoming minutes, unlimited evenings and weekends, and also have roaming, etc -- with evenings starting at 6 pm -- for about 35$ cdn a month.

Now they evenings start at 8. If evenings start at 9 there (when they're pracitcally into the night), I'd hate to see which direction your cell company is going, especially since I negotiated 10$ off of my 35$ CDN a month. You a lot pay more than I do for marginally worse service.

Re:Huh? You have to pay *extra* for SMS? (1)

bj8rn (583532) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325765)

You don't pay for incoming calls, do you? Why should you pay for incoming SMS?

I personally like the system I use - it gives me more freedom. Prepaid credit, no contract, no monthly fee. Costs a bit more (about $0.40 or $0.20/min on every call, depending on whether it's day or night), but as I don't use the phone too much, I haven't yet managed to deplete my credit before the six months time to use it is up and I have to recharge the card (adding to whatever credit was unused). And I even have roaming abroad ;7

Re:Huh? You have to pay *extra* for SMS? (5, Informative)

womby (30405) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325964)

ok well try this

I pay nothing monthly ( or
I pay nothing for incoming calls
I pay nothing to receve SMS messages
I pay 5p (aprox 7c per minute) for the first 2 minutes of calls made each day
I pay 2p (aprox 3c per minute) for all other minutes

to spend $42 per month I would have to use the phone every day and make over 1440 minutes of calls

just because you were too stupid to find a call plan that was sensible in europe doesnt mean nobody else can

Re:only two things are certain in life.... (1)

caluml (551744) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325328)

digital phones

Uh? As opposed to what? Those ancient analogue phones? You're kidding me.
/me is getting more and more surprised....

Re:only two things are certain in life.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6325407)

my digital phone is bi-band. my previous gsm phone had to be bi-band as well.

while my current digital phone rarely switches to analog, because at&t's network is built out enough, when i had t-mobile, i was frequently out of gsm area, and had to roam on (at&t's) analog networks in order to get service at all.

Re:only two things are certain in life.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6325963)


Leaving aside the obvious Take That/Westlife jokes, do you mean analogue AND digital or more than one digital frequency? Typically European phones are dual-band digital only and if you're lucky, tri-band to include the USA.

Analogue died out years ago in the UK. SMS only costs to send although most packages come with a number of free SMS messages built into the plan - being an avid texter, I normally get through 300 messages a month easily which would normally cost £36. And International roaming is free on most packages. And evenings begin at about 6pm for me.

No wonder most US phones I've used seem to be in the stone age.

Re:only two things are certain in life.... (2, Informative)

Ryan Amos (16972) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325631)

You can usually call your cell phone provider and request they disable SMS on your account. I find SMS incredibly useful, but there is an option to disable it if you don't agree. :)

Re:only two things are certain in life.... (1)

Mr. Frilly (6570) | more than 11 years ago | (#6326009)

I've called AT&T (GSM) and they've refused, saying it's not possible.

If anyone else has info, I'd love to know.

Re:only two things are certain in life.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6325975)

People still *choose* to have analogue phones? Why?

Re:only two things are certain in life.... (1)

gavUK (685476) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325533)

No-ones explicitly said yes - do you really pay to RECEIVE a message before knowing who it is from?

Re:only two things are certain in life.... (1)

Glonoinha (587375) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325927)


Re:only two things are certain in life... (5, Interesting)

smokin_juan (469699) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325278)

the big question is: why the hell do SMSs cost 5-10 cents? for god sakes, i condense my conversation and take a fraction of the bandwith of a voice call so these rat-bastards can charge extra for it. it just ain't right unless you're talking about spam-deterrent, and spam-deterrent it ain't. it's just another case of companies charging money where they can, not where they ought to. i'll be more than happy to pay for the blades AND the razor but for fuck sakes charge the right price for 'em. and you may wonder why the economy is tanking - because, as i've outlined above, it's ficticious bullshit and wether or not people realize it, they're sick of it.

Re:only two things are certain in life... (4, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325363)

If you work it out, then paying 5p / text message is the equavalent to paying over £450 per megabyte []

Re:only two things are certain in life... (1)

Mike McTernan (260224) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325701)

This maybe true, but it isn't what the user is paying for - they are paying for the service.

If it's too expensive, don't use it! Personally I think texting is convenient and less intrusive than interrupting a person with a phone call to ask a quick question which is neither urgent or important (e.g. where are you going out tonight). I use it a lot and pay the extra, and am happy for this service.

Makes it a fat cash cow. They don't get replaced.. (1)

geekotourist (80163) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325860)

With leaner, less profitable but better technological systems. It is like ISDN and Frame Relay: the California phone company resisted replacing them with DSL for years, because the former were so much more profitable. The consumers of California lost out, having to wait extra years for cheap DSL to be widely available.

Re:only two things are certain in life... (0)

BrookHarty (9119) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325374)

the big question is: why the hell do SMSs cost 5-10 cents? for god sakes[snip]

Right, multi-billion dollar networks should be FREE! Lunch too!

Check out the rate charges for Businesses over at ATTWS []

Re:only two things are certain in life... (1)

Ryan Amos (16972) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325616)

The 5-10 cents is an over-quote. With my plan, I get 300 incoming SMS messages a month, any more than that they charge you $2 or $3 for an extra 50, etc. I imagine other cell phone plans are similarly structured. Text messages aren't free, but they're included with the price of the plan in most cases.

Re:only two things are certain in life... (1)

TrekkieGod (627867) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325922)

the big question is: why the hell do SMSs cost 5-10 cents?

I have a bigger question: Why do we have to pay for incoming anything? I know that in other countries (such as Brazil), that doesn't happen.

Re:only two things are certain in life... (1)

anthony_dipierro (543308) | more than 11 years ago | (#6326020)

Why do we have to pay for incoming anything?

Because people want to allow SMS messages from people who don't have an account with your cell phone company (or any cell phone company, for that matter). Someone has to pay, and the phone company can't collect from the sender, so they collect from the recipient.

If you don't want to pay for this, I'm sure you can call your phone company and have them shut it off. And I bet if you complained about these messages being sent without your permission, you'd be able to get the charges taken off (at least for the first month, after that you better turn it off if you don't want it).

Huh? You pay to receive SMSs? (1)

Moderation abuser (184013) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325306)

How dumb is that?

Re:only two things are certain in life.... (4, Interesting)

marshac (580242) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325343)

Title 47 does seem to provide for protection against SMS-style spam. The reason is that for it costs YOU money to receive the unsolicited ads.

'to any telephone number assigned to a paging service, cellular telephone service, specialized mobile radio service, or other radio common carrier service, or any service for which the called party is charged for the call;'

So I believe that if you wanted to, you would have grounds for a lawsuit under current law.

Poor Rational (4, Insightful)

Sturm (914) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325385)

It's exactly this sort of logic that has prevented any meaningful progress in the War Against E-mail Spam. Even though you don't see it on your bill, E-mail spam DOES cost the end user in money and time, just like SMS spam. Spammers would have you believe that spam is "free" and of course their favorite argument, "It's easy to just hit delete". But, as many of us know, this argument is misleading. Certainly this line of thinking would have some validity if we just received one or two pieces of spam a day. However, the truth of the matter is that for someone who makes $20 or $30 an hour, a half an hour a day to wade through 100s of E-mail spams beccomes quite costly. All of the sudden, 10 or 20 SMS spams a day at $0.10 a pop look cheap in comparison. And this doesn't even begin to touch upon the added costs in equipment, bandwidth and personnel that ISPs have to procure to store, send/receive and try to stem the flood E-mail spam. Those costs almost certainly will be passed on to the customer as well.
We need to try to get rid of ALL spam. Whether it's SMS, E-mail, dead tree, fax or whatever.

I don't think we need legislation (2, Insightful)

rutledjw (447990) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325882)

What we need is technology to address this issue. Right now it's possible to send tons of SPAM e-mail and make it very difficult to trace. SMS implementations need to have a definate REAL return address.

At that point, companies can trace SPAMMERS, block them, or sue them in court. Today, half the problem is identifying who these people are because e-mail is so loose on the addressing issue.

Why would you want legislation after debacles like the DMCA (which almost all Senators hold up as their crowning success) and with idiots in office like Senator "Disney" (D-SC) and Orin Hatch (R-UT)?

beepbeep (BARCODE BROTHERS) (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6325223)

i'm sending you (Ken Hoffman) an SMS, i'm sending you an SSSMS. unts unts unths

*nokia beep beep*

and GENTOO SUCKS! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6325227)

It does!

Trying to sell me phones. (0, Redundant)

caluml (551744) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325228)

The worst thing about it? I work for a mobile phone company, I have the latest phones (GPRS, 3G, Bluetooth, MMS, etc) and all the calls paid for by that company, and yet, I still get messages like:

Upgrade ur mobile nw to the l8est nokia fones.


Gee, I'd like to, but.... (1)

rjmx (233228) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325437)

> Fancy helping out with a totally anonymous P2P project? []

After the (most recent!) Florida debacle [] , the **AA would probably:

  • Decide that, if the project succeeded, it'd cost them $(some huge number plucked out of the air) in the next 300 years
  • Sue me for seventeen times that much

Easy Solution (4, Interesting)

Davak (526912) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325229)

An easy solution exists for this. The cell phone shouldn't accept text messages from someone the user has called the number previously or unless the number exists in the contacts listing.

What's the odds of getting messages from someone whom you have never spoken with on the phone previously?

Of course, this could be an enabled or disabled option.


Re:Easy Solution--Edit (4, Informative)

Davak (526912) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325237)

The cell phone shouldn't accept text messages from someone *UNLESS* the user has called the number previously or unless the number exists in the contacts listing.

Sorry. Too tired to be posting.


Re:Easy Solution--Edit (1)

weicco (645927) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325283)

Hmm.. Software that blocks text messages like personal firewall block connections. Sounds like a business idea to me! I already have a sofware that receives/sends SMS and creating such a filter isn't a big deal. Big deal is how to integrate software to cell phones (currently it runs on Windows CE only). Where the heck is my CodeWarrior...

Re:Easy Solution--Edit (1)

Zork the Almighty (599344) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325654)

Damn, I'm too tired to be reading, I didn't even see the difference until you pointed it out.

Re:Easy Solution (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6325265)

You would regret this after a party, if you forgot to add girl's number to your contact list :)

Re:Easy Solution (3, Interesting)

gotacap (663393) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325267)

Personally I don't use SMS for texting from one phone to another, but as a notification feature from the net. I have setup a special e-mail forwarder on my domain to send to the e-mail to sms gateway for verizon (So that I didn't have to remember the sudomain of the gateway) and have several of my monitoring software set to send a short e-mail to that address whenever something goes down, also I've given the address of the forwarder to a few key members of my staff and family for them to quickly get a message to me wherever I am. I often find this is better then getting a call, why waste my minutes to tell me something simple?

Re:Easy Solution (1)

oaksey (585738) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325275)

I got a number last night and the lovely lady said to call or SMS, which ever suited me best. I plan on calling but I could just as easily SMS her and I haven't called before.

Almost need a challenge/response system.

I've had a few spamish SMSs but only from places that I have directly given my number to at this stage, phone provider, gym etc.

Re:Easy Solution (2, Insightful)

DdJ (10790) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325297)

Actually, IMHO one of the main uses of text messages is to get messages from people you've never spoken to.

For example, when I'm visiting a city I might send email to friends of mine in that city asking them to send me a text message with their phone number in it, so I can just hit the "respond" button to call them back rather than entering in the number myself. It's basically a way for other people to send their contact info directly to my phone.

That option would be better than nothing, I suppose, but it'd remove whole categories of usage for me.

Without some sort of coping mechanism, if spam rises to 5 or 10% of my message traffic on my phone, I'll just get that feature removed from my calling plan. I've already disabled call waiting and other features other folks seem to take for granted.

Easier Solution (2, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325335)

Providers should just not charge per message. It's ludicrous that you have to pay more for one shitty, short text message than you have to pay for a full minute of voice communication.

Re:Easy Solution (1)

lambadomy (160559) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325337)

Last week I had two englishmen in my house. One of them used my phone to text his girlfriend, as his phone got no service here. Of course I had never called her. I don't think this is a good solution, solutions like this seem like giving up to me, spam needs to be stopped at the source not the destination.

Yeah, the easy solution? (4, Insightful)

Moderation abuser (184013) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325352)

Add layers of unnecessary complexity to phone software. Sure, that's the way to do it.

The sane solution is to make the sender pay, just like they do in the rest of the world...

Re:Yeah, the easy solution? (1, Funny)

anthony_dipierro (543308) | more than 11 years ago | (#6326039)

Make the sender pay with what? A $0.05 credit card charge? Mail them a bill? Require them to establish an account beforehand?

If you make the sender pay, then you're severely reducing the usefulness of the service.

Re:Easy Solution (1, Insightful)

mumblestheclown (569987) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325359)

Technological solutions to social problems deny the full possibility of technology.

Re:Easy Solution (2, Insightful)

hether (101201) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325650)

So how does it work for someone who sends the messages to a phone via email? Since I don't have a phone this is how I send my husband messages. I imagine it wouldn't say I'm sending from a particular phone number, so could he store my email addresses in their to compare against that?

BTW, I see this email message to SMS message feature as both a benefit and a problem. The problem is that since with the account we have SMS messages can accept only 250 characters at a time, if someone accidentally (or to spam) sent a regular email messages to an SMS account it would be divided up into a dozen or so little SMS messages holding each part. And we'd have to pay to receive each part.

sad thing is I don't even want to disable SMS. (4, Interesting)

garcia (6573) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325231)

I have found that the IM forwarding feature on some of the more recent betas of AOL Instant Messenger to be quite handy.

GF could message me from AIM and I could call her back without her or I incurring any charges (incoming SMSs are free).

So now I am going to get spammed by SMS because it has to be EXTREMELY easy to send to Great.

What I am more worried about is my phone auto-answering. I was at work and heard a voice coming out of my phone. It was a telemarketer. The phone actually picked this call up by itself. Great. I had to call AT&T and have them investigate to remove the minute charges...

Re:sad thing is I don't even want to disable SMS. (0, Flamebait)

Surak (18578) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325288)

At least you're incoming SMSes are free. :) That's the same for all U.S. mobile users.

(Yeah, yeah, I know. Incoming anything in Europe is free, I can't understand you stupid Americans, etc. BITE ME!)

We call it "honey messaging..." (4, Insightful)

jordandeamattson (261036) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325249)

In our family, we call it "honey messaging...", as in, "Honey will you pick up a gallon of milk on the way home?" or "Honey, remember that I love you..."

SMS is great for sending short and sweet messages that requires no acknowledgement, and would be intrusive if sent.

It really is instant messaging for cell phones...we love it. And having the ability to have things SMS to me (for example, updates on my flight from United) if fantastic.

Re:We call it "honey messaging..." (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6325310)

how about - "Honey, I have a raging hard-on - I'll be home in 15 minutes"

simple solution (5, Insightful)

way2trivial (601132) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325250)

charge the sender of all SMS's 5 cents
give recipients a penny credit on their bill

Re:simple solution (2, Insightful)

garcia (6573) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325282)

see, the cell phone companies don't want that. They want people to become addicted to SMS like they are addicted to Instant Messaging.

They want SMSs to cost money so that they can make more.

How many plans do you see have free SMS outgoing? Exactly.

Re:simple solution (4, Informative)

rcs1000 (462363) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325483)

OK; the US phone system is completely fucked up.

In England, you pay to send, not to recieve. At 5p a time, spamming is not economic. I have never recieved a spam sms.

Now, in Houston, if my girlfriend dumped me, I could amuse myself for hours sending her 100s of SMSs, and racking up a great big for her. Wheeeeeee!

Re:simple solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6325555)

you don't always pay for inbound.

sending is free if you do it over the Internet via a SMS gateway.

So what the fuck are you babbling about?

Re:simple solution (2, Funny)

Phroggy (441) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325771)

...and racking up a great big for her.

That sounds like a lot of the spam I get.

MO-SMS is not free in US (1)

xenoc_1 (140817) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325905)

Where'd you get the incorrect idea that mobile-originated SMS sending is free in the US? It's not - depending on carrier it's usually 5 cents or 10 cents to send a message.

Of course you can buy packages that include a quota of SMS, but one way of the other, sending SMS is always incurring a cost, if you send from the phone.

But anybody can send an email to or, etc - I'd guess that most SMS spam is origninated either via email to the standardized email address of the phone's SMS, or via the carriers' websites for sending messages. I can't imagine the spammer is using an actual mobile to send them.

Re:simple solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6325450)

charge the sender of all SMS's 5 cents

SMS can also be sent through a email gateway.
How do you charge the sender in that case ?

Re:simple solution (1)

EvanED (569694) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325798)

Require an authentication system of some sore that charges your account; if invalid, don't send it.

Re:simple solution (1)

Melchior_of_wg (633494) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325734)

Thing is, this is already happening at most of the mobile connection companies over here in Sweden. Generally, those which is based upon pre-paid/chargable cards has a bonus each minute of speaking time (rather small) if someone else calls you. You then get this bonus to call for next time you charge the card. The caller does of course pay for the call.

sms fp (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6325252)

fp from sms

SMS spam it isn't a problem in Finland (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6325255)

Since it has been outlawed many years ago. I haven't received a single spam during the time I had a cell phone (4.5 years).

Re:SMS spam it isn't a problem in Finland (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6325291)

most people didn't have cell phones in the USA 4.5 years ago, nevermind cell phones that had easy to use SMS.

Incoming SMS is free. Outgoing is what costs money (if you are sending from another phone only). They are going to take quite some time to inact legislation to stop incoming spam SMS.

Re:SMS spam it isn't a problem in Finland (1)

BrookHarty (9119) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325446)

SMS was never fully exploited till the Internet boom. Now telcos are migrating from 2G to 2.5/3G networks. The hot thing in 3G+ is MMS, multimedia messaging, full color, video/audio messages.

You know all those video phones, that you send a picture to buddies with? Tell me a spammer wouldnt love to send you MMS spam. The cost is SMS 10 cents vs MMS 40 cents.

But those multi billion dollar networks cost allot to upgrade. Prices will drop later, but for now, early adopters pay the price. You see phones that cost up to 800 bux, pocket pc, java based, video color screens, cameras, mp3 players. Phone manufactures need to recoup from the telephone companies, network manufactures, deployment costs, etc.

Cool toys always cost.

Re:SMS spam it isn't a problem in Finland (1)

isogee (30758) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325885)

It is not a problem yet, but it however exists already. The operators has sent SMS spam as an "Information message" to their customers. The problem is to show which is spam, which is information included to the service.

SMS spam has some features which might made it very interesting in certain cases. Think t.ex. a restaurant owner who could send info about todays special offer with SMS message to every mobile phone located in some hundred meters from the restaurant. You like that?

If you don't use SMS... (-1, Redundant)

Joey Patterson (547891) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325260)

You won't get spam.

Re:If you don't use SMS... (1)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325320)

That's simply not true. I don't have a SMS plan and I still get spam [from my provider no less] about BS like upgrading services and how the Senators were doing in the playoffs.

That sort of BS not only pisses me off [SMS can crash v120c phones] but can cost money.


Pricing for receive: a North American problem? (5, Informative)

chathamhouse (302679) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325296)

Having recently moved to Australia from Canada, I was:

(1) Surprised to see that all inbound calls, text, and airtime were free on my mobile plan.
(2) My outbound costs were ~6x greater than before (au$0.60/min vs cnd$0.10/min)
(3) My text sending costs were lowered.
(4) There was no charge for flagfall. But now fsck'ing Vodafone plans to change that. (Australia is one of the few countries where the cost of telecom seems to rise. Yech)

From a quick look into the situation, you pay nothing to receive SMS everywhere but North America.

But, you certainly pay to send SMS, which is a sure deterrent to Spam.

Hence, switch to a sender-pays model. Problem solved if the cost to send exceeds expected revenue from spamming. If current e-mail response rates (1%) hold, it'll be a non-issue.

I'd love to hear of countries outside Canada/US where there are charges to receive SMS though. That would blow this theory out of the water.

Agree - now to implement "sender pays" email (5, Interesting)

Quizo69 (659678) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325375)

I have to say that the way it works here in Oz is great for the most part - the sender pays for the SMS message, not the receiver.

The only change to this is if you SMS someone who is overseas and who is using AutoRoam (GSM rest-of-world-only, sorry USA). Then I can SMS that person and only pay for a local SMS, the overseas portion is billed to the person overseas at the time.

I've never had any SMS spam (other than one or two SMSs from my phone provider which were borderline spam advertising new services but not overly disturbing).

Now imagine if the sender pays system were implemented in email in some fashion.... we'd kill spam virtually overnight!

The big issue with email is that, like P2P music trading, it's been free for so long that people don't want to go back to a paying system. So a solution to spam would need to involve return credits of some sort, so if I email my friend it costs me 1c but he can negate that automatically, so only those spammers whose emails aren't wanted don't get their money back. The devil's in the details though, but food for thought!


Re:Pricing for receive: a North American problem? (2, Interesting)

tracktwo (149391) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325470)

Incoming text messages are free with my plan with Rogers ATT in Canada. Outgoing are $0.05 per message. Interestingly enough, the only SMS spam I receive is from Rogers itself.

Does the FTC do-not-call list cover this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6325298)

They accept cell phone numbers, and I am getting it on my phone via my phone number. Also, most people don't pay to receive SMS, just to send it. So, the companies are worried about losing revenues from the spammers who pay to send (and of course the chance they'll scare off regular users.)

Re:Does the FTC do-not-call list cover this? (1)

LloydSeve (672423) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325344)

and I am getting it on my phone via my phone number

Actually you are not getting it through your phone #, you are getting it through an email.

It's here to stay for the forseeable future (4, Informative)

pytheron (443963) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325309)

The problem with SMS spam is that it is mostly scams being operated by shady businesses, urging you to text back to this number (premium charge, or course) to win a vapour-prize, or dial-this-number-to-win etc. With the advent of SMS gateways years ago, sending bulk SMS-spam from a computer is fairly easy. Since most operators need to accept traffic from others to ensure connectivity, getting rid of the problem would involve too much pain IMO. My money is on end users having to live with it.. just like we do in the UK. The only lesson to be learnt is to be extremely careful who you give your personal information to. Treat your mobile number like your personal email address.

Re:It's here to stay for the forseeable future (1)

Analysis Paralysis (175834) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325381)

Keeping your number secret doesn't protect you from the random number diallers. While I have had no SMS spam yet, I did receive a marketing phone call where the caller said that their computer had generated mobile numbers at random. This was an attempt to promote Orange's mobile network - and I was considering moving to Orange at the time. I wrote a letter of complaint to Orange and moved to Virgin Mobile instead.

Personal SMS "firewalls" allowing people to reject messages except those meeting specific criteria would seem the best solution here - after all there should be less scope for forging sender ID (SMS gateways excepted, but these should still be blockable).

Spam from Cingular's own website (4, Informative)

PhantomHarlock (189617) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325311)

Don't sign up for a account if you have a Cingular Wireless phone. I was (inaccurately) told by a Cingular operator that in order to get an email address (email -> SMS) for my phone I had to create an account on

A few months later I got a spam text message on my phone from a third party advertiser targeting cingular wireless users. The only way that could have happened is if Cingular sold my info. I was fuming mad and wrote Cingular's division headquarters. I received a phone call in response to the letter, and the woman said I did not need a account for Email -> SMS gateway, and the only reason to sign up for is to download ringtones and such. (and there are far better places to get those) She cancelled the account for me on the spot.

So beware if you do sign up at - Cingular SPAMs you from third party advertisers!

To Cingular's credit, they were very responsive after I sent the letter.

Unfortunately though, I just got another junk message from Cingular themselves the other day, I can't even remember what they were advertising. If that happens again, it's one more nail in the coffin for them. Although I wonder if I'll get the same thing no matter what carrier I choose these days.

I wonder how long it will take before spammers start bruteforcing phone numbers at (that's the email -> phone gateway,


Re:Spam from Cingular's own website (0)

Davak (526912) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325368)

Thanks for the information. I would mod you up if they would ever let me have mod points again.

Do incoming SMS messages cost with Cingular?


Re:Spam from Cingular's own website (1)

PhantomHarlock (189617) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325414)

They cost after 10 messages per month unless you pay the extra $4 or $5 a month flat fee for unlimited SMS. I doubt that Cingular's own spam would count against that, that would just be too evil.

I use SMS sparingly so I don't pay the extra fee. It's hard enough keeping those phone bills down to a reasonable level with all the FCC surcharges and whatnot.

Re:Spam from Cingular's own website (1)

faeryman (191366) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325441)

Cingular sucks. Period.

To answer your question though - I used to get 100 incoming/outgoing a month for an extra $4. This was about 2 years ago. Now I think you get some free and $4 gets you unlimited.

One of the primary problems in Holland (3, Interesting)

puntloos (673234) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325312)

.. was (now its legislated a bit) that subscribing to SMS services like getting a SMS when your stock options change, when a new sex message has been generated for you (yes you can subscribe to that here) or when a new news headline happens, is that registring for it is easy enough. Just send "sex on" to number 6969, however turning these services off again was near-impossible. Unless you are creative enough to figure out that turning it off needed "no more sex please" to 9696

Oh and every message they send you is $1.50 a piece.

Anyway I can't really say I have ever received SMS spam, and I've had a GSM for 5+ years now. But just as with email spam, I have been conscious about not listing my number in phonebooks and not putting it into any casual 'please fill out this info' forms. I suggest you do the same :)

Oh Boy... (4, Funny)

PS-SCUD (601089) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325326)

I can't wait until I start getting ASCII porn messages on my phone.

Re:Oh Boy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6325331)

I'd be impressed by ascii spam.

Re:Oh Boy... (1)

jadriaen (560723) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325610)

I can't wait until I start getting ASCII porn messages on my phone.
The SMS-ASCII-(porn-)messages do exist, in the usual large quantities. See this web site [] for a selection of the popular ones.

Two notes (4, Insightful)

mgcsinc (681597) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325334)

I make two first-hand notes about SMS spam:

1. I live in Europe, have had an SMS-capable cell phone for two years, and have never received a single piece of SMS spam. I credit this with never having given to any logo/ringtone website my phone number, and let me tell you, I much prefer not getting spam to having a nice ringtone.

2. I have never understood the US SMS pricing scheme; the idea that one would have to pay for messages received completely baffles me, and I think it threatens to be the single largest reason that SMS spam will have such a profound effect on US consumers.

Re:Two notes (1)

jadriaen (560723) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325737)

I make two first-hand notes about SMS spam:

1. I live in Europe, have had an SMS-capable cell phone for two years, and have never received a single piece of SMS spam. I credit this with never having given to any logo/ringtone website my phone number, and let me tell you, I much prefer not getting spam to having a nice ringtone.

2. I have never understood the US SMS pricing scheme; the idea that one would have to pay for messages received completely baffles me, and I think it threatens to be the single largest reason that SMS spam will have such a profound effect on US consumers.

I largely agree. I have a GSM cell phone with the same number from 1996 on, and I have never recieved a real spam message. I also think this is due to the fact that here in Belgium (and most other European countries) you just pay for sending an sms message, nothing whatsoever for recieving one.

When I take my cell phone abroad (the operator changes automatically due to the roaming option), once in a while I do get a message from the foreign operator itself, advertising this or that feature (e.g. how one could easily listen to ones voice mail). But you only get that once.

hunting down spammers is a waste of time... (5, Insightful)

shams42 (562402) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325338)

...when you can just go after the companies that hire them.

Now I know this might not work for international stuff like the Nigerian scam, but it should work for domestic spam. And though I don't yet recieve SMS spam, the vast majority of my e-mail spam seems to originate from domestic companies.

I mean, in order to sell a product or a service, you have to provide your vict^h^h^h^h, customers with valid contact information so that they can purchase the product. Jon Q. Fucktard can't purchase herbal viagra or a "real university degree" without knowing where to send the check.

Removing the financial incentive to hire spammers will be far more effective than trying to control it through technological means.

Spam techniques (4, Informative)

BrookHarty (9119) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325341)

I work for a wireless telco, and we have some techniques in place to guard against spammers. Nothing is 100% perfect, but we make it easier to catch.

1. Using subscriber ID's that are 16 digit long, phone+random number. (To protect against that type of subscriber ID spamming, numerical increasing.)
2. Intelligent email servers, that flag large requests and put them in queues that our NOC can monitor. Thou they have to trip the threshold.
3. Corporate customers who use SMS for dispatch, use dedicated connections. (No public connection for spammers to exploit.)
4. You can opt-out from telco originated spam, which is very few a day. (And opt-out works, not like spammers.)

Nothing is perfect, SMS is just like any other messaging system that can be abused, IM and Email. You dont want to filter to hard and block valid requests, yet you dont want spammers to eat your bandwidth.

I myself use SMS for trouble tickets, email alerts on systems, and escalation notifications. I finally directed most of my SMS to a pager instead of my phone. Dont want to mix IM's with work. And I can turn my pager off when I'm not on-call.

WC3+AVP+CS=Natural Selection [] A free half-life mod.

Hoist by thine own petard (1)

JackJudge (679488) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325364)

You guys invented it, welcome to the real world

Won't tolerate it. (4, Interesting)

Scutter (18425) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325390)

I absolutely refuse to tolerate any SMS spam on my cellphone. My gripe is not so much the cost as the inconvenince of having my phone go off every thirty seconds, then trying to sift through to figure out what's legitimate. The first time I get an SMS spam, I'm having the "feature" disabled on my phone since SMS will then become completely useless.

Re:Won't tolerate it. (1)

frause (234486) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325669)

Uhmm? You can turn SMS-recieving off?
At least I can't do that on my Nokia. Sure I can turn off the ring-tone, but that won't help much...

I don't know about you but (2, Interesting)

jsse (254124) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325403)

in China SMS spams are usually falling three categories:

1) Broadcasting messages
2) Bulk messages sent ad companies via your carrier
3) Your boring friends

1) could be easily stopped by turning off your mobile phone's ability in receiving broadcast messages(I'm sorry if you don't know how). 2) are sent from some advertising companies which signed deals with your mobile carrier such that you can't screen them off as in 1), but you can always ask your mobile carrier to get you off from their advertising bulk list or face lawsuit. Unless, of course, your service agreement explicitly revoked your right in denying advertising(have you read it before signing it?). :)

Man 3) is hardest to stop, in view of the fact that each SMS message only cost them less than $0.1 RMB(US$0.014)! :)

like a virus (1)

DiggiLooDiggiLey (683911) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325416)

The spammers are pouring in everywhere, deliberately causing damage, ruining it for everyone. Who would want to do something like that? What is going on in their small minds? As it turns out, not much.

Not a problem in Canada (3, Interesting)

Bilange (237074) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325435)

I've been told that cell phone numbers are supposed to be confidential in Canada (in other words: Foobar inc. won't be able to find your cell number (unless you write/say it everywhere to everyone, of course))

I used SMS a bit with one friend of mine, and none of us recieved a single SMS spam.

Someone else in this thread said to get rid of the spam from the source, not the destination - I think thats not totally true. Since SMS spam looks like e-mail spam so much, why dont mobile service providers add some software to block SMS spams before they send SMS to the user? Its a bit like Hotmail (or whatever e-mail service) spam filtering.

While im at it, it would be nice to have a spam filtering web interface on your cell provider's website that acts a bit like hotmail custom filters, for example: "If text contains 'free viagra', do not send" and so on.

My 2 canadian cents (thats $0.01 USD).

A problem not w/ spammers but stupid people (1)

adzoox (615327) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325439)

I have Cingular, which as far as I can tell, is the better of the service providers in my area. Greenville SC, where I live has the highest cell phone penetration per capita in the country [] . This is due mainly to the fact that all the collection agencies/collection technologies are based out of Greenville for cell phones and because we have a totally free market; most areas in the country limit the number of carriers in particular region.

As you could imagine, we also have a high concentration of people who don't know how to use cell phones that "use" cell phones here. (May be a southern redneck thing) Anyways, especially on late night Fridays (Saturday mornings at 2 -3am) I get an unknown data call. Several times, I have instantly tried to call the person back. Sometimes, I get no answer. Most times I get, "Oh I'm sorry, I was testing out my phone!" or "I was trin to mess my homies, bro"

Just recently, this activity is increased. I have alerted Cingular about it and they said there's nothing they can or will do.

Europe (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6325456)

I have had the same GSM number for the last 5 years now. It is listed on public phone books and on the GSM phone books as well. I have never received SMS spam. We here in some countries in Europe have very good laws already against SMS Spam.

If I for instance was ever to receive SMS spam, I would request the local appropriate authorities to look into it and the company would get automatically (eventually) fined for each of the received complaints.

Finland, the home of the cellural technology, rocks.

It's not *such* a big problem here in the .uk (3, Informative)

alanw (1822) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325574)

I get about 1 SMS spam per month. I never give my mobile number out, so they are all just being dialled randomly. We have several avenues of complaint:

ICSTIS [] , who regulate the premium rate telephone market - most of my SMS spams are shilling premium rate numbers, claiming that "I have won a prize" or that "someone likes me". ICSTIS have fined many spammers thousands of pounds.

There is also the Advertising Standards Authority [] who are now accepting complaints.

It is also illegal to use an automated dialler, but the bunch of lazy jobsworths at the Data Protection Agency [] can't be bothered to prosecute.

Is turning off the bloody phone that horrific!? (1, Interesting)

Hollinger (16202) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325575)

First, I have a cell phone. I've had various cell phones since 1995. It's not some new whiz-bang toy to me. My current PCS phone service is simply that. Phone service, voicemail, 3-way calling, and a few other things. No SMS, no Wireless Web. The only feature I want right now is a modem attachment for my laptop.

Now, about the article. Did anyone else get the feeling that turning off a cell phone would be the end of the world? This SMS spam thing might be good thing. I won't have to listen to so many damn annoying ringers when I'm sitting in a public place. What happened to the good old pleasant chirps / rings?

Dammit, I'm SO very close to building a PCS phone jammer. So very close. In fact, the only reason I haven't is that they're HIGHLY illegal. I'm fed up with people that constantly take calls, chatting about idle nonsense. I don't mind those people that actually take / make calls to get / send information. It's the ones that talk on the phone just to talk that get to me. Just yesterday, I was standing in line at a local fastfood place, and some woman just in front of me in line spent the entire time she was standing there gossiping with a friend about a 3rd friend. I don't need to know that! Sometimes, a cluebat would come in handy... It's as if some people think you can't hear their side of the conversation, when they're standing 3 feet away from you! She was even rude enough to keep the phone to her ear while she placed her order. She even asked the guy at the register to hold on a sec, while she finished listening to whatever juicy bit of gossip. I SWEAR.

Dammit, that felt good. People need to rant and rave every now and again, even if they're screaming into a vacuum.

Mod parent UP! (1)

filmsmith (608221) | more than 11 years ago | (#6326047)

And, furtheromore, those of you that ARE the people in line in front of him behaving in an uncivilized manner, LEARN from him and everyone else that is so very frustrated with your lack of consideration! ...I now submit MY story of an inconsiderate cell phone user.

I was hanging out with some friends late one night and we found our way to this strange new restaurant called Denny's. It being prom night, this place was filled with High School kids and we were sat across from a young couple. The guy on this date was so busy yapping on his cell phone for the better part of 20 minutes that he didn't even bother to hang up when their dinner arrived, thus completely ignoring his date! Naturally, I had no choice but to take it upon myself to start flirting with his date (and, yes, I did do this in hopes he'd hang up and pay attention to her). Long story short (too late) he did hang up, but not because of my flirting. Rather, his food was getting cold (or that's what he told the other person). After he hung up, he was more than willing to hang all over her and mad dog me, but he didn't seem to care about her too much when he was on the phone.

Damn...that does feel good! Though I don't think I'll be screaming into any vacuums anytime soon. Last time I did that, it sucked all the saliva out of my mouth and I had cottonmouth for a week!

All they have to do... (1)

Tuxinatorium (463682) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325620)

All the companies have to do is put a term in their EULA that the text messaging system is not to be used for any sort of commercial bulk mailing, then sue the brains out of any and all spammers they can track down. They don't need any new law.

Re:All they have to do... (1)

mgcsinc (681597) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325802)

That's nice... except the spammers would always find a service provider to use, so long as there was money to be made for providing them with one. When is an EULA (although EULA was the wrong term anyway) or other license agreement signed with the receiving provider?

Re:All they have to do... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6326013)

When you sign the rights over to do a credit check you pretty much authorize anyone to do anything -- :)

ALL cell phone companies require credit checks or a high deposit and all sorts of other personal info. Plus, you SIGN a contract even if you get Prepaid.

Thank you (0, Redundant)

shibbydude (622591) | more than 11 years ago | (#6325945)

I thought I had been going crazy. This has been happening to me for at least a month. I HATE SPAM!
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