FCC Cracks Down on Text Message Spam, Tells Mobile Operators to Block Them

By Paul Riegler on 18 March 2023
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A spam text message received in December

The Federal Communications Commission took steps on Friday to crack down on text message spam with new rules for mobile operators.

Text message spam, also known as SMS spam and robotexts, are messages sent by hackers who attempt to get you to click on a link or divulge personal details such as banking information, credit card numbers, home addresses, and social security numbers.

In a unanimous decision announced Friday, the FCC adopted rules that aim to snuff out such texts, with a focus onthe kind that attempt to trick consumers into clicking on links that can result in costly outcomes.

Text message spam often come in the form of phishing, in which the recipient of such a text message who clicks on a link is sent to an official-looking website that is a copy of a legitimate financial institution or other entity.  In another twist, clicking on a link in a text could sureptitiously cause malware to be installed on the user’s device.

This is the first time that the FCC has adopted rules concerning the problem.

The move comes amidst a sea of consumer complaints in recent years tied to unwanted texts.

The new rules require mobile operators to block text messages from suspicious sources including telephone numbers that appear to be “invalid, unallocated, or unused.” Mobile phone providers will also have to block text messages coming from phone numbers that claim not to ever send text messages, or that the government has identified as numbers not used for texting, the FCC said.

“Scam artists have found that sending us messages about a package you never ordered or a payment that never went through along with a link to a shady website is a quick and easy way to get us to engage on our devices and fall prey to fraud,” said FCC chair Jessica Rosenworcel in a statement. “These robotexts are making a mess of our phones. They are reducing trust in a powerful way to communicate. So today we take our first step to stop these unwanted texts at the network level,” she said.

The FCC said that there has been a more than 500% increase in text scam complaints in recent years.  In the period from 2015 to 2022, robotext complaints rose from around 3,300 to 18,900 annually.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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