By now most will have heard of Ms. Paula Cochrance and her £1200 mobile phone bill. The culprit in that case was the lowly emoticon. Turns out those little symbols we tack onto our texts and emails can end up costing us big money. But there are other text messaging hazards that can end up costing smartphone users significant amounts of money. Of course, I’m talking about premium SMS text messaging scams. Everyone with a smartphone is vulnerable to these messaging scams, and if we’re not careful they can wind up costing us serious dosh. So, with the hidden, or not so hidden, costs of text messages uppermost in our minds, it seems a good time to look at protecting ourselves from these SMS text messaging scams.
Before we start talking about protecting yourself from premium text messaging scams, it should be pointed out that not all premium text services are spam. A premium text service is simply a subscription service that anyone can sign on to, in which the client receives regular texts for a monthly fee. It might be a ‘word of the day’ service to help increase your vocabulary, or a ‘joke of the day’ service to provide you with your morning laugh. Premium text message services are also common associated with gaming sites and weather and news updates. However, many fraudsters are exploiting these subscription services to rob people of their hard earned money. Because billing is handled by your phone service provider, all a criminal needs to sign you on to a fraudulent subscription service is your cell phone number. That puts most smartphone users at risk for fraud.
Identifying Premium SMS Texts
Whether you have signed on for a premium SMS service or not, the texts should be easy to recognize. If the service is legitimate, you should receive a service start up message that includes the name and cost of the service, billing frequency, and contact information to opt out of the service. In which case, simply make contact and opt out of the service at the earliest opportunity. However, if you are the victim of a premium SMS text scam, it is unlikely that you will receive any initiation message. Texts will appear in your inbox, and charges will be added to your monthly bill. That being said, premium text messages will typically come from a four, five, or six digit number. That should be a red flag for any unusual SMS messages you receive, and you should investigate them before you begin racking up huge bills. Remember, premium text scams are illegal, and firms involved in the scam can face serious fines and penalties.
Opting Out of Premium SMS Messages
The first step in opting out of premium SMS messages is to text ‘STOP’, or ‘STOP ALL’, to the contact information provided. If the firm is legitimate, this should cause the messages, and their attendant charges, to cease. If this fails to resolve the issue, contact PhonepayPlus. The service is a partner of Ofcom, and they regulate phone paid services throughout the UK. Using the website’s Number Checker, you can find the direct contact information for the firm to send the messages. With that info in hand, contact the firm directly and ask them to cease and desist. If this fails to resolve the issue, file a complaint with PhonepayPlus and they will investigate the firm. While that investigation is in progress, contact your network provider and ask them to block all premium SMS messages from the offending numbers and firms.
Paying the Cost
While it is unlawful to send reverse billed SMS messages to people who have explicitly stated that they do not want to receive them, getting a refund can be problematical. First, you must be able to prove that you didn’t sign on to the subscription service. So, if you signed on to a service when you first got your new phone, and have long forgotten about it, you will not be in line for any refunds. However, if you can prove that you never signed on for the service, you should file a complaint Ofcom and PhonepayPlus. Present your case, and the official regulators will investigate. If you win the case, you will be provided with the necessary information you need to collect your refund.
Premium rate SMS traps are becoming more and more prominent across the UK. Unfortunately, once you’re caught up in a scam it can be difficult to extricate yourself before racking-up huge bills. If you are being troubled by reverse billed SMS texts, use these tips to opt out of the service. Failing that, take steps to file a complaint with the authorities, and contact your network provider to block any and all premium rate numbers.