UK cracks down on claims industry SMS spam

The Information Commissioner's Office has conducted one raid so far in connection with unsolicited messages

Text-message spam is coming under close scrutiny from the U.K.'s data protection authority, which is trying to blunt an increasing wave of insurance industry and accident compensation-related spam.

The Information Commissioner's Office said on Thursday it has conducted one raid and plans more raids targeting operations that collect sales leads by illegally sending unsolicited text messages.

The messages are often sent from SIM banks, or a hardware devices in which dozens of SIM cards can be inserted and used with automated software to dial hundreds of phones, according to an ICO spokesman.

The SIM cards are frequently changed so if a number is reported as being spam-related, it won't be used for very long. The messages frequently instruct a user to text back "stop" to receive no further messages. But that action merely confirms it is a valid number.

For compensation-related spam messages, a user is instructed to text back "claim" if they are considering legal action related to an accident. But that plays right in the hands of the spammers.

"Even more so, if someone texts back 'claim,' they not only know that it's a live number but potentially someone is ready to take legal action in relation to an accident," the spokesman said.

The data collected is sold by the spammers to insurance agencies, lawyers and others with an interest in purchasing sales leads. Those purchasers are supposed to ensure the information was collected legitimately, but have little legal liability unless they make no attempt to check how it was collected, the spokesman said. The ICO has been meeting with lead-generation and claims management companies to ask how they obtain data.

In May, the ICO gained the power to fine organizations up to £500,000 (US$788,000) for breaching the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003, which lays out rules for marketing text messages. The ICO has not issued a fine yet.

The regulations mandate that marketing messages are legal if the sender obtained the phone number through a sale, the products are related to the sender and that the receiver had an option to opt out. Senders also must provide a simple way to opt out of future messages.

According to a survey of 1,014 people by the ICO, 681 said they had received a text that had caused them "concern." More than 200 said they were troubled by text spam and wondered how their details were obtained.

Operators have spam-reporting services. For Orange, O2, T-Mobile and Three, a spam message can be sent to the number 7726. Vodafone's spam forwarding code is 87726.

Earlier this year the ICO also gained the power to ask operators and for any information connected with a specific phone number, the spokesman said. The operators had previously said there was no legal reason to turn over personal data.

Most of the SIMs used for spam are prepaid, which does not require the buyer to give personal information. But the one raid conducted by the ICO was the result of a registered SIM card, the spokesman said.

The ICO will release more information on its investigation when it is complete, the spokesman said.

Send news tips and comments to jeremy_kirk@idg.com

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags telecommunicationantispamsecurityregulationmobile securitygovernmentInformation Commissioner's Office

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jeremy Kirk

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?