FCC adopts first rules cracking down on text messaging scams
FCC recommends consumers not click on links or provide information from suspicious text messages
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced Thursday that it adopted its first regulations targeting scam text messages sent to consumers.
Under the new rules, mobile service providers will be required to block robotext messages that are highly likely illegal and come from phone numbers that are unlikely to transmit text messages, such as invalid, unallocated or unused numbers. Robotexts are often used to promote links to phishing websites that can install malware on the user’s phone.
"Text message scams are an increasingly pervasive consumer threat, with a more than 500% increase in complaints in recent years," the FCC wrote in a release. "From 2015 to 2022, robotext complaints rose from around 3,300 to 18,900 per year. And robotexts 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."
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The FCC’s new regulations require that mobile providers block text messages from suspicious sources that are believed to be illegal and also include numbers that the subscriber has self-identified as never being used to send text messages, or that government agencies and other well-known entities have identified as not being used for texting.
A second rule requires that mobile wireless providers establish a point of contact for text senders, or have providers require their aggregator partners or blocking contractors to establish a point of contact, which senders can use to inquire about blocked texts.
Additionally, the FCC asked for public comment on further proposals to require mobile service providers to block texts from entities that the FCC has identified as illegal robotexters.
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The agency proposes to clarify that Do-Not-Call Registry protections – which prohibit marketing messages from being sent to numbers in the registry – also apply to text messaging. It also is looking to close what’s known as the "lead generator loophole" that allows companies to use a single consumer consent to deliver robocalls and text messages from numerous marketers on subjects that may be unrelated to what the consumer initially consented to.
The FCC wrote that although robotexts in general are covered by the Telephone Consumer Protection Act’s restrictions on unwanted calls to mobile phones, the new rules "establish important blocking rules for mobile carriers to actively help protect consumers."
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To better protect themselves against text scams, the FCC recommends that consumers do not interact with suspicious text messages in any way by responding, clicking on links, or providing information via text or a website.
Consumers who have been hassled or scammed by robotexts can file a complaint with the FCC, forward unwanted text messages to SPAM (7726), and should delete all suspicious texts.