T-Mobile And The FCC Tell You To Reply To Txt Msg Spammers

Crissy received some txt message spam on her cellphone and was understandably annoyed because incoming txt messages are not included in her package with T-Mobile.

She called T-Mobile to complain and what was their advice? Txt the spammer back (at her expense) and ask them to stop. What?

We thought this was the dumbest advice we’ve ever heard, so we wondered where it came from. Guess where? The FCC!

On the section of their website that deals with cell phone spam (which is illegal, by the way) the FCC suggests:

If you open an unwanted message, send a stop or opt out message in response.

This is simply not good advice, for at least two reasons:

1) It’s a waste of a text message.
2) You’re letting the spammer know that he/she has reached a working email address that is, in fact, connected to a phone, and, potentially, revealing your phone number.

Instead of wasting your time helping the spammers bother you, here’s what you should do (this worked when it happened to us):

1) Call and demand a credit from your cellphone company. Tell them that cellphone spamming is illegal and you want to be compensated.

2) If the problem doesn’t go away, demand a free number change or ask that txt messages be completely disabled.

3) Don’t waste your money arguing with a spammer who already doesn’t care that they are doing something illegal.

4) Report the spammer to the FCC and to your state’s Attorney General. In Illinois, for example, Lisa Madigan sued cellphone spammers. Cellphone spamming is illegal under the provisions of the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing (CAN-SPAM) Act.

Crissy writes:

Dear Consumerist,

I am writing in hopes that someone high up at T-Mobile will see this and realize how stupid their anti-text spam advice is.

Today, I received text message spam. This rarely happens, but it is an annoyance, especially since my plan (the basic family plan) does not include free incoming or outgoing text messages. Here is the text of the message I received:

Lovett@feroliegroup.com/MBN/(W.indows V.ista and all Adobe software) 90%o.f.f visit:(222. usa010 .com)

Clearly spam, right? The e-mail address is the only source information I have, and I’m not about to respond to it, just as I wouldn’t respond to similar solicitation through e-mail.

I called T-Mobile Customer Care to ask whether I could receive credit (i.e., not be charged) for that text message, since it was spam. The representative I spoke with said that she would not be able to help me in that regard but that I should sign up with the Do Not Call registry to prevent such occurrences in the future. I informed her that I HAVE signed up with the registry, and she was appalled that I would still be having this problem. Her other suggestion was to reply to the text message with the word “stop.”

My husband was not satisfied with this response, so he called back and spoke with someone else who was a bit more helpful with regard to credit. The rep he spoke with agreed to give us 30 free text messages each, which was more than fair. However, she, too, suggested replying to the text message with “stop.”

Now, forgive me if I’m wrong about this, but isn’t the cardinal rule of spam management, “Thou shall not give spammers the time of day by asking them to stop spamming you”? Won’t texting these people back just make things worse? Why is T-Mobile encouraging this behavior? My husband tried pointing this out to the rep he spoke with, but all she would say in response is, “That’s why we tell you to reply with the word ‘stop.'” That particular representative, at least, did not seem to get the gist of why ANY response is a bad idea.

Again, I am grateful for the free text-messaging credit we were able to secure from T-Mobile, but I am concerned about their policy regarding text spam. Hopefully, if you post this, someone “important” will read it and realize that their current suggestion is no good!

Thanks, Crissy in Honolulu


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