FCC Acts to Block Robotext Scams

New federal rules will require wireless providers to block texts from numbers likely to be spoofed or hijacked.

FCC Acts to Block Robotext Scams
Photo by Adem AY / Unsplash

Soon we'll all be getting daily texts exhorting us to sign up for an extended warranty for our cars, if we're not already.  The Federal Communications Commission would like to block – or at least slow down – the emergence of yet another totally annoying scam phenomenon.

On Friday, it adopted its first regulations specifically targeting the increasing problem of scam text messages sent to consumers.  The new rules will require mobile service providers to block certain robotext messages that are likely to be illegal.  

It's hardly a minor problem. Text scam complaints have risen more than 500% in recent years, from about 3,300 in 2015 to nearly 19,000 last year.

While perhaps not as intrusive, robotexts nonetheless pose a unique threat to consumers: unlike robocalls, scam text messages are hard to ignore or hang-up on and are nearly always read by the recipient – often immediately.  In addition, robotexts can promote links to phishing websites or websites that can install malware on a consumer’s phone.

Wireless providers on the hook

The FCC's action requires wireless providers to block texts from numbers that "are unlikely to transmit text messages." That includes invalid, unallocated, or unused numbers, as well as numbers that the subscriber has said aren't used to send texts.

The FCC is also proposing to clarify that Do-Not-Call Registry protections – that is, prohibiting marketing messages to registered numbers – apply to text messaging.

It would also close the lead generator loophole, which allows companies to use a single consumer consent to deliver robocalls and text messages from multiple – perhaps thousands – of marketers on subjects that may not be what the consumer had in mind.

Meanwhile, the FCC recommends that consumers take steps to protect themselves from text scams: do not interact in any way with suspicious texts, do not click on suspicious links, and do not provide any information via text or website.  

In addition, consumers can file a complaint with the FCC, forward unwanted texts to SPAM (7726), and should delete all suspicious texts.