back to article Guess which major US telco ISN'T cracking down on premium SMS spam?

AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile have agreed to stop charging their customers for premium text messages (PSMS), a practice that costs US folks an estimated $2bn in excess charges a year. The ban isn't total – Verizon isn't stopping the practice because it says it is still in the process of winding down its PSMS service. But it's not …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Oninoshiko

    Ban them all, possibly with fire

    If I want to give to a charity or a political campaign I can do so just fine using plastic. There is no reason to do it via such an easily exploitable system.

    Ban them all.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Guaranteed that the only reason this bill existed in the first place was that the legislator had to deal with this issue. Not a single legislator is willing to write a new law for telemarketing and to put some teeth in it. A good start would be that any company that forges the number they are calling from to conceal their identity would not only face fines like they currently do but the owners are charged with a felony. This way they can no longer hide behind their business as currently they just shut it down and start a new one up. That ends that system as they will have their hands full with facing criminal charges.

  3. joed

    seriously, no class action lawsuit yet?

    So just because your phone number existed/was active someone can SMS you and in effect steal your money while (or maybe because) telecoms rake in nice profit on the "service". I can bet they would charge you even if you proved them that your cell was an old school rotary dial phone without a display. Trying to opt out (why do they always opt us in?) is made to be more pain in the ... than necessary and even then you'll receive some crap because e.g. pay as you go plans do not qualify (not that customer support was aware of that).

    As much as I hate lawyers I hope that some will find an opportunity to drain some $ off network providers, they just deserve it.

  4. stizzleswick

    Funny thing there.

    Interestingly, it seems the practice of PSMS scamming only exists in the US and Canada--where the telcos charge people for incoming calls and SMs. In most of Europe, as far as I am aware, it is strictly "who initiates the call, pays for it." I may be ignorant, but a PSMS "feature" does not seem to exist in my home country, because of that very simple principle being enforced by according law--nor in any neighbouring country AFAIK. If I err here, please feel free to correct me.

    I find the article to be a little ambiguous on whether the ban is on the SM being sent by the scammers, btw, or on the content: is the fraud perpetrated by sending unwanted SMs, or is the damage done by the recipients of said messages replying to them?

    In the latter case, I would have to ask why they are replying? The only way to eliminate spam/cram is for everybody to simply not respond, thereby removing the economic basis for spamming.

    1. Tom 35 Silver badge

      Re: Funny thing there.

      There are two text message scams in Canada. One shot where you text some number to vote for a fake TV show contest, or donate money to something, or subscriptions where you get suckered into signing up for something that repeats, like Fido used to run some like Joke of the Day where they would text you some lame joke every day and charge you 25 cents for each one.

    2. Fihart

      Re: Funny thing there. @stizzleswick

      I'm puzzled that any user would buy into a system where the recipient has to pay for calls.

      The Royal Mail (in England) was able to create the first national postal service when it realised that charging the sender was the only viable model. Previously, recipients had simply refused to accept letters.

      The success of the sender-pays model led to economies of scale that made possible the Penny Post which, in turn, made the service more popular.

      Of course, it's not just US carriers who have un-learned the Royal Mail example. As the cellphone market matures, those in Europe who now charge senders silly money (T Mobile 12p, Orange 14p for texts) will lose out to those offering offering prices (3Network texts at 2p or so) which better reflect the tiny cost involved to providers.

    3. Graham Marsden

      Re: Funny thing there.

      > In most of Europe, as far as I am aware, it is strictly "who initiates the call, pays for it."

      In the UK there are "Reverse Billing" systems (generally for adult services) whereby you text a number and receive a certain number of texts back which can be charged up to £1.50 each IIRC. But it's not somethng that's forced on you, you have to opt in by texting them in the first place and you can opt out at any time.

      1. Joe 37

        Re: Funny thing there.

        If only! Basically the entire reverse billed SMS scheme is a sewer of fraud colluded at by the "regulators" who earn their operating costs from these frauds. Which are criminal, but the "regulators" get their operating costs paid by "fining" the fraudulent scum. the police don't want to know as it is "regulated" by Ofcom. Who pass the buck to the "regulator" formerly known as ICSTIS, now called phonepayplus who ignore any and all complaints. I stopped bothering after the 400th complaint.

        Unless they are sufficiently egregious to get a fine out of them to pay their operating costs.

        A fine that will never be paid.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      PSMS scamming only exists in the US and Canada

      In Brazil (have you ever take a good look at a globe? There *are* other countries in the bottom part of it) telcos also charge you to get messages and calls. They do quite a good profit on lame joke services, horoscope, religious message of the day and other crap. And they are quite reluctant in admitting any wrongdoing -- some people were subscribed against their will and had a hard time trying to prove that to the telcos.

      Burn all them, I say.

      1. stizzleswick

        Re: PSMS scamming only exists in the US and Canada, @AC 18:40 GMT

        Had not been aware of Brazil also having the problem, and as I have since learned, also Australia. Thank you for pointing it out, have an upvote!

      2. Daniel B.

        Re: PSMS scamming only exists in the US and Canada @AC Brazil

        If Brazil is operating under the scheme I think it is, no it isn't the same as PSMS. Here in Mexico, the popular scam is related to "get jokes for "free", send an SMS to 77666" or something like that. What you're actually doing is setting up a recurring subscription which is automatically deducted against your phone number. Of course, this auto charge will persist even if you stop using said phone number, and it gets reassigned to someone else. So the lesson is not to fall for those stupid SMS offers at all!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: PSMS scamming only exists in the US and Canada

          It has been and still is a 'thing' here in the UK.

          They do not seem as prevalent as they once were, there have been some attempts and regulation (PhonePayPlus). A few years ago they were a big story in the national news, teenagers in particular liked to sign up for them for some reason without considering the fact that there were charges.

          You really would have to be not thinking straight to agree to pay money for such utter rubbish.

        2. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: PSMS scamming only exists in the US and Canada @AC Brazil

          Does any one know how SMS subscriptions get cancelled in the UK when you stop using a phone?

          As we can expect the operators won't keep track of the services a subscriber has signed up to, there must be some mechanism which blocks a service provider from sending or requesting payment for SMS's sent to a number that the operator has re-assigned.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Its been the cancer of the UK mobile business for years

    And even though toothless watchdogs may pretend to go through the motions, its ultimately a mere slap on the wrist and business as usual, since the operators all take a juicy cut of these rip offs themselves.

    Call me cynical, but since the advent of twitter, IM & smartphone messaging, could it be these operators have known all along how hated these "services" are and only turned their coats once it became clear their victims are using them less and less anyway?

    1. JeevesMkII

      Re: Its been the cancer of the UK mobile business for years

      Not really the same thing.

      In the UK, it's all about conning people in to sending texts to premium numbers. Same with those silent calls to try to con you in to dialling the premium rate number in the caller ID.

      In the US they have this really bizarre practice of charging you for text messages you actually receive. The user doesn't have to do anything other than fail to text STOP back.

      1. Martin 15

        "Not really the same thing." but it is similar.

        Don't forget those "services" where you do get charged for receiving SMS texts in the UK. daily weather forecasts, horoscopes, ringtones and the like.

  6. ecofeco Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Charging for SMS is THE scam

    Unless you are sending large files through SMS, being charged for it is one big scam. The size of the avg text message data packet is so tiny that the cost to the phone company is either nothing or less than nothing.

    I went unlimited everything with no contract years ago. I will NEVER go back to the old scams.

    As for "charities", don't even get me started...

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Charging for SMS is THE scam

      In a sense, yes ... on the other hand, nobody forces you to SMS and you not have a god-given right to use side channels for free or for a valuation that you happen to deem appropriate.

    2. Fihart

      Re: Charging for SMS is THE scam @ecofeco

      Kind of get revenge on the cellphone operators by the following.

      Friend wants to visit. Calls on landline first to check you're in. On arrival, instead of pressing doorbell, calls on cellphone and only lets it ring twice. Caller id show they have arrived.

      I see people visiting my neighbours doing this the whole time, so it's not just my friends.

      Why ?

      As a lawyer once told me, in court you never ask a question unless you already know the answer, at home never answer the door unless you already know who's there.

      1. jonathanb Silver badge

        Re: Charging for SMS is THE scam @ecofeco

        I send a text to say I'm outside, but O2 gives me unlimited SMS as part of the standard package.

  7. Piro

    Verizon was my first guess, actually

    Go.. me? I suppose.

  8. Chris G Silver badge

    Spanish rip-offs

    As far as I know all Spanish telcos will rip you off, not by charging recipients of SMS but on roaming calls.

    I have a Spanish mobile if when I am out of the country someone in Spain calls me it costs them a lot of money at the same time as I am being charged for the roaming connection, so if I get a call from Spain while visiting in the UK, the longer the Spanish side wants to chat the more it costs me to listen to them.

    Just as well that I'm an unpleasant sod with no friends!

    SMS I pay .15 cents Vodaphone to Voda National, .30 to non Voda and .60 international, when my last 18 month contract with a better deal finished, rather than tell me they just reverted me to a more basic deal.

    So now I'm looking for something better.

    Lebara PAYG looks to be cheaper than most contracts here in Spain but the data deals are crap.

    1. Trygve Henriksen

      Re: Spanish rip-offs

      Actually, that's how ROAMING is supposed to be paid for.

      If I call someone on a cell, I expect that call to cost a certain amount.

      If that someone is in another country, someone must pay the extra that the network supplier in that country wants for relaying the call. Should it be the caller who may be unaware that the other person is in another country?

      Would he even have called if he knew that the person is in another country?

      Should he get a 'horrible voice in a can' system telling him that the number he's trying to reach is in another country before connecting?

      (Now we're into Private Information issues.)

  9. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    "> In most of Europe, as far as I am aware, it is strictly "who initiates the call, pays for it."

    In the UK there are "Reverse Billing" systems (generally for adult services) whereby you text a number and receive a certain number of texts back which can be charged up to £1.50 each IIRC. But it's not somethng that's forced on you, you have to opt in by texting them in the first place and you can opt out at any time."

    That's how it is in the US too, people are supposed to sign up to a service first, then get billed for the texts they receive back. I think in some cases, people simply do not pay attention and sign up for something not realizing it costs. But, in other cases, the companies are simply committing fraud, and fraudulently claim you signed up for their service. Of course, the cell cos are all to happy to scoop up your info for the NSA, but will not use the exact same records to make sure you actually texted a premium rate SMS provider before they start billing you (apparently, preferring to get rid of the whole mess. Which is fine with me.)

    As for being charged for sending or receiving SMS in general? Not really a problem, the cell cos here in the US have such bad pay-per-use rates (25 cents a text or more?) that people who don't text generally have texting disables, and everyone else buys a big bucket of texts or unlimited texts. Verizon for one is also quite aggressive about tracking down and suing text spammers.

  10. Velv Silver badge

    "... and some political donations will still be allowed"

    So who's a hypocrite?

    Hint: if your politician was one of those clamouring for change, yet still accepts donations, you have proof they're a hypocrite (or more of a hypocrite than other politicos).

This topic is closed for new posts.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019