- Access to bank details is often the ultimate aim
- Recent prosecutions are a positive sign for the future
- SMS spam increased 300% in a year
We’ve all received them. Those messages promising thousands of pounds in compensation for that accident you don’t remember having or that unclaimed PPI compensation which you’re apparently entitled to even though you’ve never had PPI. The rise of spam text messages advertising personal injury compensation has risen through the roof in the past year or so, so how are these companies getting our numbers, do these texts have anything to them, and who is it who’s messaging us?
Smishing in the UK
Spam text messages which offer individuals money in the form of unclaimed compensation, loans or erasing debt are known as “smishing” messages, a form of SMS phishing. A recent consumer survey on text message spam has demonstrated that of 1200 UK residents, 43% were spammed and 30% were spammed in the last month. This is equal to 20 million users receiving spam text messages.
The rate of SMS spam has increased by more than 300% in one year and the top types of spam are:
- Accident injury compensation (34.53%)
- PPI compensation (31.74%)
- Instant Loans (21.59%)
- Debt eradication (5.32%)
Be wary of the real intention
Some of these types of smishing messages have the eventual aim of gaining access to personal banking details and personal information in order to steal identities or drain bank accounts. Accident and PPI messages (which are the most prevalent) have been investigated by the BBC as part of the Panorama series and it has been claimed that CMC’s (claims management companies) are embroiled in the illegal practises.
Who sends them?
According to a panorama investigation spammers send out an initial text message offering accident compensation of PPI compensation. Responses to spam SMS messages are sold to claims management companies for £5 each who then follow up the response. Panorama discovered that these leads are sometimes sold to CMCs a few times over. What’s more, when individuals reply to a message with ‘STOP’ there numbers are often sold on to other spammers as the STOP is taken as confirmation that a number is active.
Prosecutions now taking place
At the start of October one of the first prosecutions was made in relation spam messages offering accident compensation and PPI compensation. Two individuals will be fined half a million pounds by the Information Commissioner’s Office. Both were linked to a company that is registered under the Data Protection Act, but which the ICO have said broke the law in sending the messages.
What not to do
If you receive spam SMS messages the one thing you shouldn’t do is reply, even if it is to STOP the message. You might be idly curious and well aware that isn’t going to go anywhere, but by sending a reply you could be accidently confirming your identity, or that you at least own an active number which can be sold on to other parties. Try and keep your number as private as possible and if you do end up getting a lot of spam text messages then it’s best to report it to the ICO.
But DO keep reporting
Spam text messages aren’t likely to go away any time soon, but the recent prosecution relating to spam text messages bodes well for the future. If consumers increasingly report spam messages then they’re more likely to be tackled by the appropriate bodies.