Spam Texts Will Finally Be Tackled As Networks Take Action

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Spam text messages reported to mobile phone operators have been thrown “into a bin” as networks fail to take the deluge of messages seriously but a more effective way to stop text spam is on the way.

Mobile phone users in the UK are being inundated with six million spam texts every day

Neil Cook, chief technology officer at Cloudmark - a company that helps to detect and stop spam text messages - claimed that networks throw away reports of spam from customers. Spokespeople from 02 and Vodafone denied this, while EE, the parent company of Orange and T-Mobile in the UK, didn’t respond to our requests for comment.

Spam texts in the UK are typically about PPI compensation, pay-day loans and personal injury claims.

A new system for reporting text spam could soon be adopted by UK networks

A new system for reporting text spam could soon be adopted by UK networks

All networks accept spam reports from their customers sent to the 7726 short code, but Three is the only UK network currently signed up to a global spam-reporting service. The service is backed by the GSMA, a global body representing mobile phone operators around the world. It is unclear what the rest of the networks do with the spam reports they receive, if anything - which has allowed scammers to operate relatively unhindered.

It is hoped that the GSMA’s spam reporting service will soon be adopted by more UK networks and that its wider use will make it easier to detect and stop the people sending spam text messages.

An industry source said that the wholesale adoption of the spam-reporting service by UK operators could “dramatically reduce the number of spam messages being received”.

While this problem is not new, Cook said that networks only began to sit up and pay attention when they realized that spam texts were costing them money.

“Before we were talking about customer satisfaction and it wasn’t so interesting, but when a network is losing money it becomes a different conversation,” Cook explained.

Networks have been losing money from spam messages because of termination charges that networks impose on one another. A text sent from 02 to Vodafone, for example, will cost 02 a couple of pence. These costs are usually cancelled out as people tend to reply to texts, but this is not the case with spam, which is normally ignored.

“Spam activity does have a cost impact to our business,” an O2 spokesperson said.

Text spam has already been dealt a major blow in the US where all the major mobile phone networks use the same spam-reporting system. Thousands of spam numbers are being blocked every day in America.

O2 confirmed it was improving its system for reporting spam, with all UK networks expected to sign up to the GSMA-backed spam reporting network.

“We have plans to make enhancements to our service in the next few weeks, which will help reduce the number of fraudsters engaging in this type of activity,” an O2 spokesperson said.

Messaging apps overtake texts for first time

The number of messages sent on chat apps is now higher than the number of text messages sent.

In 2012 a total of 19.1 billion messages were sent using messaging apps, compared to an average of 16.7 billion text messages.

By the end of this year analysts expect the number of messages sent using apps such as WhatsApp, Skype and Facebook Messenger to rocket to 41 billion worldwide.

Mobile phone operators are already seeing a decline in the number of texts messages being sent, according to business analyst firm Information.

Messaging apps

Messaging apps

While many mobile phone contracts have a limit on the number of texts people can send, messaging and chat apps use mobile data so don’t count towards this. With many contracts including generous allowances for mobile data, people are increasingly turning towards messaging apps.

Text messages won’t be going away anytime soon, however, and are still proving incredibly popular in developing countries.

Internet calls - Skype calls added to inboxes

Microsoft-owned Skype is being added to so people can make video calls directly from their inbox.

Skype calls

Skype calls

Anyone with and Skype accounts can now link them together and click on a contact to send them an email or start a video or voice call using Skype. A preview version of Skype for is being trialed in the UK, with other countries being added this summer.

“With Skype for, you can choose the right medium for your message, whether it is an email, call, video call or instant message,” Skype said in a blog post announcing the new service.

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