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back to article Data cop slap for Brit text pests

The two owners of a rogue marketing firm have to cough up £440,000 for spamming UK mobiles with millions of texts over the last three years. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) made its first use of new powers to levy heavy fines for serious breaches of the UK's Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) …

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Anonymous Coward

Hands up who wants these miscreants phone number.

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TRT
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Windows

Actually, I was hoping...

that they received a jail term. And that every couple of hours, day and night, someone would hammer on the cell door and slip a note underneath it; said note being along the lines of "Been buttf***ed in the shower? Want to get even? Call Slasher McGee, block E cell 37, for a truly professional service."

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Re: Actually, I was hoping...

+1 for you, made me laugh :)

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Coffee/keyboard

Re: "Been buttf***ed in the shower?

LMAO - reminds me of that TV show OZ! I do hope his cell mate doesn't keep a spoon hidden under his mattress! I'd like to see him claim compensation for that!

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TRT
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WTF?

Re: "Been buttf***ed in the shower?

???

I'm sorry, I've never seen that show.

Providing it doesn't involve yoghurt, I am awaiting enlightenment.

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shortcode 7726, a bit like putting junk mail back in the postbox then :D

Not that I would do that of course, or suggest everyone did that so the delivery service have a rethink about putting dead trees through our letterboxes.

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7726?

And what exactly will the network providers do with the spam texts? Select one from the following:

1) Bugger All

2) Nothing

3) Sweet FA

4) Forward it to the ICO

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Holmes

Re: 7726?

Assuming that the carriers actually care (or are encouraged to care by the regulators), the first step in shutting down SMS spam would be to gather statistics.

The carriers can't seem to stop the spam at the source, but 7726 allows them to automate the process of identifying the sending number and enables them to block it almost immediately (simple script -- if you get 10 complaints on the same number to 7726 inside of 10 minutes, block the number).

It may not end the problem, but at least it makes life a bit more difficult for the spammers (they need to buy more SIMs, as they're being blocked more quickly) and collects evidence (we have all these compaints of spam from this number, and here we have a SIM registered to that number, perhaps you'd like to explain?)

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Megaphone

About bloody time too

Those texts are incredibly annoying, especially since I've never had an negligence based accident or taken out PPI. I wouldn't mind so much if there was some actual basis for sending them to me.

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Pint

Re: About bloody time too

Finally, these bastards have been texting me about once a week for god knows how long.

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Mushroom

Phonecalls

Great. Now can they do something about the 2 or 3 pre-recorded phone calls I get per day offering PPI despite me being on the TPS? Usually from numbers starting 0843 410 xxxx. These guys must have thousands of numbers as they rarely use the same number twice.

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Stop

Re: Phonecalls

Phone calls are way more annoying than the texts. We get at least 1 every day. I would love to see this practice stop in it's tracks.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Phonecalls

What is worse is getting a new phone+number and discover that the number was previously used by someone who (a) appears never to tell their friends that their number has changed, (b) appears to have a fairly "relaxed" attitude to paying bills. Result of (a) are series of texts etc saying "hi <name>, we are you?" "are you going out tonight" etc and even the more ironic "hi, this is my new phone number". While (b) resulted in a series of calls from utility companies, landlords and eventually (I assume - they don't actually say who they are) debt collectors asking to speak to the previous owner of the number ... mostly when told that person they want hasn't had this number of now 3 years they aplogies and claim to remove number from their list. Anyway, 3 years after I got my number I'm still getting occassional calls from people trying to contact the person who used to have it.

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Re: Phonecalls

The woman who used to own our house (3.5 years ago) was evidently some kind of contractor. She also has the same name as my wife.

I still get people ringing up asking to speak to her for work purposes. Obviously due to the name confusion I tend to get sucked into these calls until I realise its evidently for the old owner.

What kind of idiot doesn't pass on their new number to clients/potential employers.

Wish I'd cancelled the line and ordered a new number.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Phonecalls (3.5 years ago) was evidently some kind of contractor

Lucky she didnt operate a "personal Service" company, especially with the name similarity

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Unhappy

Pond life

So, the networks allow tens of thousands of texts to be sent from unregistered sims? Is it really beyond their capability to prevent this, or maybe limit the number that can be sent to weed out the obvious misuse?

It seems all along the chain, from networks to claim companies, to solicitors, to the spammers, everyone wants to grab some money, and sod the ethics, legality or the huge nuisance caused.

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Wow - whatever next. Maybe companies reported to the TPS for cold calls on land lines will get boshed.

Oink, oink, flap, flap. Pass the bread please.

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Ah but

The number of times I've had them call up and when I've said "Could you give me the name of your company, this line is registered with TPS" and I've gotten the response of "Ah but this is just a survey." maybe they could do a second "No Surveys" register.

Either that or I'm buying a rape whistle to blow down the phone at full force.

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Anonymous Coward

A lot of that's McNeish too. He left a daabase sitting around on his server (called "goldmine") and someone downloaded it, then gave it to the ICO. It shows a lot of tie ins between McNeish's SMS spam operations and his email spam ones.

Anon, because it might have been me.

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Re: Ah but

Now that's a good idea!

I tend to mute the mike and let them chat to nobody, but a rape whistle sounds much better.

... Or perhaps a modem handshake.

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7726

Or in an easier to remember form, S-P-A-M based on the normal letter allocation on a phone keypad.

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Go

7726

Don't forget to add the originating number when you forward the spam text - else they won't know who to go after / ignore / report...

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Or on Three network

just to be awkward - 37726

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FAIL

Re: Or on Three network

Not just 3 who had to be different. With Vodafone, the reporting number is VSPAM (87726)

And apparently, Virgin don't even list a number as an option.

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Re: Or on Three network

Probably because these days it's extremely hard to find a Virgin anywhere

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Re: Or on Three network

I'm on the 3 network, I sent it to 7726 (without the 3 at the start) and it worked fine. Also, I received a thank you text requesting I reply with the spammers original number so they can look it up. Doing so I received a follow up text from 3 saying it appeared to originate from a shortcode and to try replying STOP ALL.

Not sure if it will every be taken any further, but fingers crossed.

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Happy

Re: Or on Three network

Hmm - interesting. It's the exact same process on the AT&T network here in the US. I wonder if they're all using the same 7726 software? Typing in the sending number is a pain, but I try to remember I'm helping to build a database to shut down these b@stards.

Maybe there is hope after all. It seems to be working here, I haven't gotten SMS spam for a while now. It does seem to come in bursts for several months, then dies out. I'm currently getting robocalls offering me [lower interest rates, free alarm systems, or dead air!)

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Mushroom

Still in business (or a clone)

I regularly get texts like the example cited. The downside is that is costs you money to stop the F<redacted>ers.

It can even be at high as £1.50 to send a stop text as I found out to my cost before I wised up and now just ignore them.

bomb for obvious reasons

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Z80

How do they do that?

"Tetrus was using unregistered pay-as-you-go SIM cards to send out as many as 840,000 illegal text messages a day."

Am I the only one wondering how that's even possible?

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It's creas to say hanging's too good for them.

But hanging is too good for them.

There are few for whom i feel more contempt.

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Re: It's creas to say hanging's too good for them.

> Hanging to good for them?

If I had my way, I'd hang, draw, (but not quarter) them, then disembowel, skin them alive, half-drown them in a barrel of brine, and then really torture them.

Or, like Tantalus, subject them to torture, for about 15mins sessions, with 5 min breaks to read some email. At about 2-5 day intervals (changes each time), send them a "get-out-of-jail-card". However, it is only valid for 45 minutes, and they receive ~1000 spams a day. Filters and searching are not allowed.

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Go for the source

If the dodgy solicitors who push these services were to lose their license, it might shut things down a lot quicker. Surely that's a possibility?

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Facepalm

Hmmmm......

So you make a dodgy £10 million and then have to pay a fine of £400000.

What's the catch here? Can they write that off against tax?

Seems like a winner to me.

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Facepalm

Re: Hmmmm......

I'd like to see if HMRC would also like a word with these two once the ICO et al are done with them. I've a hunch that the accounts for Tetrus Telecoms, and those 6-7 figure earnings by the directors, might not stand up to close scrutiny?

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Anonymous Coward

7726 works on Vodafone

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So just to be clear......

...you're saying I'm not entitled to compensation for the payment protection insurance I took out to cover my legal costs for the accident claim I made for that accident that I can't remember happening ?

Shit, there goes my Christmas shopping money....

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back of fag packet calculations

mean this was very much worth it for these scumbags

at £7k per day income and 3 * 365 days makes around £7.7m less £0.4m fine makes a nice profit of over £7m

Think I might get myself a slice of that pie.

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Devil

Re: back of fag packet calculations

Some cold callers you can have fun with. Espcially the ones who claim to have found a virus on your PC.

Had one on the line while he desperately tried to aid me to connect my Commodore 64 to the internet to "clear the viruses". Well he did ask me to start up my computer and it was the one nearest! How would I know? :-)

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MrT
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Can't help thinking...

... if the fine wouldn't have been more ironic if it was £404k - although £4.4million would have been nicer. Each.

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Alert

Maybe a UKer can tell me what's up with this - I'm in the US, and I can count the number of spam texts I've had on one hand, in 10+ years of using a cell. Same for my wife. And nobody I know - and I've asked - has had very many, if any at all.

Is there some kind of regulatory hole that's allowing this stuff in the UK while it's not here? Are providers acting differently here, or what? It's really odd.

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A large part of it is the greater prevalence of premium rate numbers - one comment already mentions the little trick of "reply STOP to stop these texts", where sending them a reply costs you £1.50, almost all of that going to the spammer.

I don't get *many* - a few weeks since my last one I think - but they are irritating. It's the regular landline spam that really bugs me, though, mostly because it's much more intrusive than a text. Despite being TPS registered, I get random tools trying to peddle their blasted solar panels, insisting that because it's government-subsidised they are exempt from the TPS prohibition on marketing calls...

A ban on phone ownership/use in the first instance, with a stiff jail sentence for violations or repeat offenders, would fix it. The VoIP "virus" scammers might be beyond range of the court, but disconnecting the offending source networks from the UK phone networks should make them much more pro-active about disconnecting the scammers from their network instead.

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In the USA you have the TCPA and the right of private action, with the spammer AND the advertiser being jointly culpable.

It didn't take many court cases to make a point. Some asswipe small claims judges might quibble about cost shifted fax advertising(*), but with US customers paying to _receive_ SMS texts, $1500 per pop adds up very quickly. ($500, plus treble damages because it's willful). Having the FCC pile on top at $11k per instance made it even less economic.

(*) A few have refused to hear cases or find for the plaintiff. When kicked upstairs, it's always been kicked back down with very clear instructions.

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Anonymous Coward

I would have thought more punitive action might be a good idea, with fines for the phone companies that allow such scum to proliferate once a number opf complaints are made against a particular number. That might make them take greater steps to prevent or nip in the bud any persistent offenders. If they wish to, they could even require authentic phone calls to be made from numbers that are barred from having their numbers withheld to the recipients, who are free to take action to reclaim money for time wasted from such firms. I would also like the scum who wriggle out of the TPS service by claiming they are "doing a survey" to be hammered by making such surveys illegal unless they have consulted and been bound by an authentic ethical committee similar to those who monitor medical or other social science research, with approval required for each survey, and with an expectation that the results of any "survey" be published at the same standard as any research done by others.

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One thing this is going to hit

I have no feelings about ignoringf those kids that accost me on the street these days asking me to give to charity.

I know they are just aching to find decent jobs and that they are being made slaves by the people who mine into charitable causes. And that even if most of it goes to managing directors, overheads and evil b\stards in governments I don't know about, some of it gets through...

I just don't care much.

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Facepalm

Some Math...

OK, if they really sent out up to 840k messages per day (which seems a bit high to me), let's assume they did on average 100k messages per day and operated this for, say, one year, roughly 200 days (without the weekends and such). That makes some 20 million illegal text messages. A fine of 440k makes the steep price of £0,000022 per message. This is probably less than 1% of what they paid their operator.

So that's what "new powers to levy heavy fines" means. That will teach them. They will probably never do this again.

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