Beware of SPAM texts on your cell phone. Companies have agreements with the major mobile carriers for “Premium Text Messages”. These companies can send you a text message and unless you opt-out of it, a “service” charge could added to your phone bill! If you receive a text like this, respond to the text with “Stop”. Wait a day or so and then call your mobile carrier to see if you have any charges added.
This whole story started with two annoying, but somewhat benign looking SPAM text messages that I received on my iPhone.
The two bubbles on the left are the the two text messages that I received from SJA. Here’s the text for those who can’t see the image.
272 is the password —- Web Access plus SMS Queries, Send-to-Phone SMS Features, 866 559 1313 9.99 mthly and Other Value Adds.
SJA Web Access Plus SMS Queries- Call Us Anytime 866 559 1313 9.99 mthly help, stop, info, Unlimted SMS Queries.
Just the fact that I received SPAM text messages on my iPhone is really bothersome to me. But unlike email SPAM, I’m actually PAYING for this as it counts toward the 200 text messages that I get with my plan. So, I decided to a little research into who’s sending this and how they’re able to do this.
It turns out that this is
a problem that’s bigger than just getting annoying text SPAM. The SPAM text message is just a first step in placing a service charge on your phone. Companies are able to send you a “Premium Text Message” that somehow establishes a “service” with you that you can be billed for.
This has been going on for a while and I found an article on Skydeck.com, titled TEXT MESSAGE FRAUD: PART 1 OF 2
At Skydeck we believe that anyone should be able to send a
text message to anyone else, but premium services should require
‘double opt-in’ before charging. I spoke with Sprint about the issue.
While the conversation went well and ended with the service rep filing
a fraud report against SJA Mobile, one of the first explanations I was
given surprised me because it implied that their partners can bill for
services on an opt-out basis: “SMS businesses under contract with
Sprint can send text messages to Sprint’s customers, and begin charging
them if the recipients don’t ‘opt-out’ of their service”. The only
SMS I ever received from SJA’s short code (23907) contained the
following message: ” … “. Seriously, that’s it. I was supposed to
recognize that “…” meant I was now enrolling in a $4.99 per month
service, and had to opt-out?
Lots of information on this site about SJA.
After reading this, I called AT&T to complain about this and they told me that all I had to do was to respond to the text message with “stop” and that I wouldn’t get billed for it. I did that and I received the following text as a response.
No further text messages will be sent. Not satisfied? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
So, I have to pro-actively respond to SPAM to not get billed? This makes absolutely no sense to me. Why do I have opt-out of something that I didn’t sign up for? I don’t respond to SPAM email or faxes, why do I have to respond to SPAM text messages?
Today, I decided that I would call AT&T to complain about the fact that I have to pro-actively opt-out of something that I shouldn’t have to deal with. Plus, I lost 4 text messages dealing with this which represents 2% of my monthly total. When I talked to customer service this morning, they told me that in fact that I had been charged the $9.99+tax for a service by SJA on my account! The customer service rep had it removed from account and credited me with 4 text messages, but I was still steamed so I was escalated to her manager.
The manager told me that AT&T had agreements with companies for “Premium Text Messages” and that I must have signed up for something, which is I definitely did not do. I asked to file a complaint with them about this billing and he said that he would escalate this and then get back to me. I don’t know if this will happen or not.
This needs to stop. The mobile phone companies should not be allowed to place charges on your bill based on a text message that is sent to your phone. I am sure that there are plenty of people out there who are paying these charges without realizing what has happened.