Spam and Mobile Devices

Spam is the term used for unsolicited messages sent via electronic communications technologies such as E-mail, SMS, MMS or Instant Messaging (IM). Typically, messages delivered via spam to mobile devices include:

  • Unsolicited commercial messages advertising goods or services for sale.
  • SMS and MMS messages that are intended to trick the recipient into placing a call to a premium rate telephone service. Typically, such messages will inform the customer that they have won a prize and will provide a premium rate number that the customer must call for further details.
  • ‘Phishing’ messages that seek to trick the recipient into divulging personal or financial data that can be used by the message originator to commit identity or financial fraud against the recipient.
  • In some cases, unscrupulous third parties have been known to make calls to mobile devices with the intent of tricking the recipients of these calls into calling back the number from which the call originated. In this scenario, the calling party hangs up the call after just one ring making the recipient believe they have missed a call. The number from which the call originated will be a premium rate or other revenue share number. If the recipient of the missed call calls back this number they will be charged for the call, often at a higher than usual rate.

There are some simple steps you can take to minimise the impact of mobile device spam:

  • If you receive an E-mail, SMS, MMS or Instant message on your device stating that you have won a prize you should ask yourself if you can remember entering the competition in question before making a call to any phone number provided in the message. Be particularly suspicious if the phone number provided for you to call in the message is an international number or a premium rate number.
  • If you are concerned about receiving spam messages contact your service provider. They may be able to block some spam messages before they reach you or may offer anti-spam services. Some service providers also offer a mechanism through which you can report the receipt of spam messages, for instance by forwarding the messages to a special address (e-mail address, phone number etc) provided by your service provider. By reporting spam messages you help the operator to identify premium rate services that are tricking customers into calling them. Where local regulations permit, appropriate corrective action may then be taken against the senders.
  • When receiving messages on your mobile device, take the same precautions that you would take when receiving E-mail messages on a PC. Whilst most ‘phishing’ today uses E-mail messaging, there have been some incidents that use other messaging formats.

Never enter personal details, especially usernames, passwords, PIN codes and banking or credit card details into an unknown web site or send these details via e-mail, SMS, MMS or IM in response to an unsolicited message requesting you to provide these details. If you have any doubts as to the authenticity of a request received by E-mail, SMS, MMS or IM, then before responding to the message you should contact the company from which the message appears to have originated using a number or e-mail address obtained independently of the suspect message.