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back to article Pair face £250k fines for spamming mobes with millions of texts

Two unnamed marketers are facing fines well over £250,000 for allegedly texting millions of spam messages. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has written to both individuals to confirm that it intends to extract the cash from the pair, who are accused of breaching the UK's Privacy and Electronic Communications …

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Anonymous Coward

Hoorah!

About time too.

Nice to see the ICO seemingly acting in the publics interest rather than fining public bodies of much needed cash.

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Re: Hoorah!

I agree, but the fine needs to be far greater than the profit they make. Is that the case here?

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Holmes

Re: Hoorah!

like summary execution? too good for them!! rant rant and more unreasonable indignation.

Anyway, they are a bloody pest and I hope the ICO takes them to the f***ing cleaners!

I'd like to know what spam shite these two c*** are responsible for,

-You've had an accident....

-You can claim against PPI.....

- <insert name> ...you can now write off your debts... (some fucker gave them my name!!!! not just random!!, hmmm methinks a breach of the DPA, time to raise a complaint with the ICO!)

etc etc

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Meh

Re: Hoorah!

Yea, but at least the UK has the ICO to keep bandits lie this in check.

I am currently in South Africa using a PAYG mobile and have received about 20 texts from nice people telling me I've won everything from $250,000 cash in the "Cell Phone Lottery" to "R1000 free airtime from MTN" in the past 3 weeks!

Needless to say, these textards all expect people to call them back on a premium rate number...

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Anonymous Coward

On average

My business gets 70 unsolicited calls a week, today three calls telling me I was entitled to an upgrade mobile phone and cheaper calls on my BT line (incidentally I don't use BT).

I give the same reply, "the boss is away until November sailing in the Bahamas"

"What's his name, we can call back?"

"Just ask for Mike.... Hunt.."

Now I play the incensed business owner when they call back!

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Facepalm

Re: Hoorah!

> rather than fining public bodies of much needed cash

Do you think that public bodies should be immune from the Information Commissioner's attentions, then? (Think carefully; I pretty much guarantee that the majority of your personal information is held by public bodies rather than private ones). Or perhaps there should be a different approach to punishing disregard for the rules if a public body is at fault? Suggestions welcome, but they must be compliant with the human rights accords.

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Devil

Why can't they...

...go after the people that enlisted these services as well, if it is obvious that the service they are asking for is dodgy ... in the case of hit jobs, you prosecute both the hired gun AND the person that enlisted their services.

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Re: Why can't they...

I don't think they are engaged by the ambulance chasers, they sell on the "leads". The ambulance chasers are supposed to find out if the lead has come from a legitimate place *before* using it, but (of course) in practice that's pretty much impossible to do.

The chasers will check with the people they contact and do stop using leads from companies who use these spamming tactics, but these barstewards just move on to another ambulance chaser and then after a few months change the name of their company before going around the loop again.

Ultimately there's only two workable ways of stopping these g!ts:

1) Prevent ambulance chasers from taking leads from any third parties. Biggest problem with this is that there are also a great many legitimate sources.

2) People stop responding to the texts, so there is no money to be made. Biggest problem with this is that lots of people are greedy and stupid.

Sometimes you can get lucky, one of these guys texted me repeatedly, but made the mistake of providing a web site address that could be used to respond as well as replying to the text.

One quick lookup on the internet later and I had his name, company address *and* the names of all his spamming companies, which I then sent to the ICO. Haven't had a text from him in about two months now.

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Bronze badge

Re: Ultimately there's only two workable ways of stopping these g!ts:

Actually, you forgot one:

3) Use a large caliber firearm to forcibly insert a projectile into their brains.

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Mushroom

Maybe they need some legal advice? ICO can we have their mobile numbers please - i have some helpful text messages I can forward to them....

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Megaphone

Pity

They can't do anything about those crappy PPI and "have you had an accident in the last three years?" adverts on tv.

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Anonymous Coward

Would be nice...

...to see their full details posted publicly if they refuse to pay up in full after 28 days and compensate those who received their spam. Particularly as their guilt isn't in question.

There's no justice like angry mob justice...

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Bronze badge

And landlines !

I'm close to dumping my BT landline because of the quantity of bogus International and Unavailable calls plus daily calls from 084, 032, 029 numbers. The "International" calls (which I assume are Skyped or spoofed) are particularly annoying because I have family abroad.

These phone pirates are speeding the end of landlines and should be removed from both the mobile and landline networks. Spam e-mails are far less intrusive than your phone ringing unnecessarily several times a day.

The rot set in when premium lines were permitted -- this seems to have opened the phone networks to ruthless marketing companies and others who are downright con artists.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: And landlines !

I generally don't answer my landline any more, unless someone has let me know by other means that they'll call me at that time.

Occasionally I answer it, say something to trigger their voice detection, and leave it off the hook, so at least I'm tying up their system a bit.

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Re: And landlines !

We don't even have our landline plugged in any more: it's only used for broadband.

We will have to change this to a POT that's set to silent so that the children could dial 999 if required (ideally only in an emergency!).

As for the mobile spam texts check this page for an explanation of what you can do:

http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/phones/stop-spam-texts

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Gold badge

Re: And landlines !

Do it the Kraftwerk way, disconnect the ringer and tell everyone you will pick up your phone at a set time each day.

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This post has been deleted by its author

Silver badge

Re: And landlines !

Record the 'di dah dee' number disconnected tone on your voicemail. This causes a lot of diallers to hang up. Your friends and family will get used to waiting through the beeps and you can just pick it up later.

I have a phone with a VIP feature, where someone can enter a code and it cuts out of the voicemail back to the phone. The normal ring is set to zero volume, and the VIP ring is as normal. The message says that if you are a friend, colleague or relative, you can enter the VIP code. If you don't know it, you can hold on and this message will tell you. However, using the code if you are not a colleague, friend or relative is an offence under the Computer Misuse Act ...

Most uninvited callers hang up at that point.

Then it tells the caller what the code is. I noticed that some callers or machines are resolutely determined to hold on till the call is answered or a voicemail beep is heard. So I play them several more minutes of music, and then sorry, sorry voicemail is full, and the line is dropped.

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Re: And landlines !

That sounds interesting... make & model please?

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This post has been deleted by its author

Good, but why only text messages?

As the report states, automated marketing is also illegal. And I'm sure not all automated marketing is being performed from outside the UK.

Calling people on TPS is also illegal and has been for many years longer than sending text messages. So when are we going to see prosecutions of the tens of thousands of people who seem to be doing this on a regular daily basis.

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Anonymous Coward

Another type of pest: "HL Solicitors"

There's a company calling itself "HL Solicitors", who keep texting and phoning, but they clearly don't have a name to go with the phone numbers. A web search suggests their MO is to ask you to "confirm" your name and address.... either identity fraudsters, or trying to match you up against a list of debts they've bought. I hope someone gets them sometime!

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Re: Another type of pest: "HL Solicitors"

I used to use the pseudonym of Mike Hunt for these types, until that is I started receiving junk mail and even more frequent calls to the landline. At first it was funny, but now it is just annoying.

Nowadays I just let my 4YO to answer the phone. Never argue with the logic of a 4YO!

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Happy

one use for them

Personally, I always make a note of the numbers that these spam texts come from, and then quote that as "my" number when baiting 419 scammers or trying to set spammers against each other.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: one use for them

I do that too. BCC a batch of lads with a short email saying "I'm interested. Please tell me more at 07********". Or a few carefully chosen insults.

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You can report the numbers

http://www.ico.gov.uk/complaints/marketing.aspx

Just click on Report your concerns.

You don't even have to supply any personal information if you don't want to.

I report all of the texts I get.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: You can report the numbers

And it makes no difference at all.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: You can report the numbers (to the ICO?)

Which is why it's helpful to report the numbers to the licenced telco operator providing the number. If the licenced telco ignores a formal complaint along those lines, there can be consequences, and they know this. A UK licenced telco must have a published complaints policy+procedure and a formal complaint cannot be ignored.

Once enough people do this frequently enough, they will start to get the message. If they don't get the message (that they are permitting their customers to abuse their contracts and thus the telco is in contravention of its operating licence) they risk further trouble. Which will be fun to watch, if nothing else.

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WTF?

What I want ...

is the ability to bock spam SMS text from cell carriers.

They ALWAYS wake me up early on Sundays.

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Megaphone

Re: What I want ...

is the ability to bock spam SMS text from cell carriers.

Yeah. Bloody smartphones. Not so smart after all eh? How hard would it be for a smartphone with the processing power to play 1080p video to look up an incoming number against a user defined block list and just dump the call or txt? And have a button to black/white list numbers on the dialler screen making it nice'n'easy for the user to keep that list growing?

This is an OBVIOUS idea, so no patent application please!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What I want ...

HTC have a block list. I have a single contact called block and every time a new caller rings with caller ID I add the number to the contact. Doesn't work for TXT tho!

Posted anonymously JIC!

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Anonymous Coward

So why doesn't the ICO go after the big names ignoring TPS?

They could start with British Gas - I'm on TPS but it doesn't stop BG calling me.

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Bronze badge

Re: So why doesn't the ICO go after the big names ignoring TPS?

I believe companies who can convincingly maintain that they have a 'business relationship' with you can ignore the TPS. I haven't looked this up, nor do I know how tenuous the business relationship can be. "You answered the door to one of our chaps with a clipboard in 2002"-sort-of-tenuous, probably.

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Thumb Up

Yay!

That is all.

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Anonymous Coward

all they need to do is go bankrupt

- no fine to pay, and they get to keep their hard-won pile of dosh too. Simples :(

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Anonymous Coward

In addition to the fines...

...they should get mandatory five year prison sentences.

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Coat

waiting for

"HAVE YOU RECEIVED AN UNWANTED TEXT AS SPAM? YOU COULD WIN A MAHOOSIVE PAYOUT FROM THE ICO! JUST REPLY TO THIS MESSAGE AND WE'LL CONTACT YOU..." texts to happen.

mine's the one with the PAYG numbered mobe with a history from before the dished it out in the pocket..

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Anonymous Coward

Do these folks run their own telcos?

First, re bankruptcy: exactly, they'll have set this up as a company, usually the company gets the fine, the company goes bust and resurrects under a new name. If the ICO really imposes a fine on individuals, that's a touch better, but bankruptcy still applies.

Meanwhile, are these people running their own licenced telecom companies? It seems highly unlikely. Therefore whatever they are doing is being done through a telecom company who are licenced by our (useless) UK telecoms regulator. You can find out which licenced telco issued the number, and politely tell the licenced telco that one of their customers is abusing their service. It is then in the interests of the licenced telco to stop the abuse. If they knowingly let it continue, their operating licence (ie money) is at risk.

NB some rotters are using spoofed caller ID so do please be polite with the telco as the company who issued the number may not be the guilty party!

Ofcom administer these numbers; the list is currently at

http://www.ofcom.org.uk/static/numbering/index.htm#special

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Boffin

all they need to do is go bankrupt

> - no fine to pay, and they get to keep their hard-won pile of dosh too. Simples :(

Fines are excluded from bankruptcy and any assets you have are taken. I work in debt advice in the charity sector and know that our local official receiver would never let someone retain known assets in bankruptcy.

On another note, since buying a Truecall device several years ago - http://www.truecall.co.uk/ - I've never received nuisance calls on my landline.

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More still to do

From both an enforcement and technical point of view, a lot more needs to be done.

Fines and custodial sentences need to be coming thick and fast.

The mobile networks need to be employing blocks to this crap, and SIMs need to be blocked quickly.

Or perhaps 'spam filters' on certain types of text could block that number from sending similar texts for an hour or two at a time - making it so much more difficult and expensive to do? (That way genuine users aren't adversely affected by mistake)

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Facepalm

Re: More still to do

> block that number from sending similar texts for an hour or two at a time

I guess that would have helped that guy who sent sexy-time texts to everyone on his contact list!

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Anonymous Coward

Truecall alternative - application for raspberry pi?

I've read about Truecall, seen it (and the cost to build it) on Dragons Den, and heard about the ongoing post-sales costs to the unlucky punter. I no longer want one, though I like the idea.

How easy would it be to make a DIY more flexible more customisable ongoing-cost-free one with a telephone interface (or two) on a Raspberry Pi or similar?

I'd want a blacklist (don't ring the real phone but let them think it's ringing), a whitelist (ring the real phone immediately), a greylist (leave a message and I'll get back to you). Oh, and a rude list: numbers which when recognised get a particularly unpleasant message.

Cost of hardware? Effort for software? Anyone got a couple of evenings free next week?

Patents? Pah.

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- Truecall alternative - application for raspberry pi?

>I've read about Truecall, seen it (and the cost to build it) on Dragons Den, and heard about the ongoing >post-sales costs to the unlucky punter.

You don't have to pay ongoing costs if you choose not to. You still have all of the functionailty but without the browser front end. I won't, and don't, pay ongoing charges.

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Thumb Down

Bollocks

In 2011/12 the ICO issued one private sector fine, to Andrew Crossley of ICS Law (remember him?), for £200,000. They reduced it to £1000 after he whined, and history doesn't appear to record whether or not he actually paid it.

If the ICO gets 250K (or anything) out of these guys then I, for one, will eat my hat.

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Silver badge

Not difficult to work out who the "unnamed firms" are.

http://blog.dynamoo.com/2011/10/sms-spam-loanslineukcouk-gary-mcneish.html?m=1

http://sloughtimes.com/ns/ns0/ns043.php

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/mobile-phones/8613335/For-sale-your-mobile-phone-number.html

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addendum

The firms concerned are also responsible for a large amount of spamming which is clearly related to the Yahoo data leak ealier this year.

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Anonymous Coward

I hope that in addition to the fine...

...that the perps and their paying customers are hanged by their thumbs for a few months so they know SPAMMING is wrong.

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Silver badge

Bah!

I was once barraged by middle-of-the-night support calls during my colleagues turn at bat (I was only supposed to do this duty one week in three) because the Production Control staff knew I would pick up and the bugger on duty wouldn't. Simply not answering Would Not Do and could get me fired.

So I bought a low-tech built-like-a-tank AT&T answering machine and recorded ten seconds of outgoing dial tone on the greeting tape. Then I turned off the ringer on my phone.

After a couple of nights of the poor machine rattling on and off like a Gotlieb pintable between the hours of 2 and 4 am PC got the message and complained - about my colleagues disingenuous support practices.

I still have the machine in question in a box somewhere, and I've not had a more reliable one since, but I had to retire it from active duty when the playback button wore out. Somehow it seemed churlish to toss it in a landfill after such sterling service.

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