“You have WON the $1000 BestBuy Card drawing!” “A $500 Wal-mart gift card is waiting for you!” “Congratulations on your new FREE iPad!”
Everyone hates spam, especially on your mobile phone. Of all the channels spammers use to illegally and unethically contact you, though your mobile phone is actually one of the most protected. This post is going to cover how spammers do what they do, whose combating them, and how shortcode programs differentiate themselves from spam in the mobile space.
1) How can I become a spammer?
If you decide to hang in the towel at your reputable day job, you’ll need three things to become a scumbag spammer: (1) a list of mobile numbers, (2) a message to send, and (3) a way to send that message.
- To get a list of mobile numbers, you can buy it from a company that does that sort of thing or automatically generate one through good ol’ fashioned guessing. Write a quick script that automatically guesses mobile phone numbers; most of the time it’ll be wrong, but occasionally you’ll be able to illegally and unethically send your message to someone.
- Secondly, your spam campaign is going to need some content. If you’re a part of a radical political or social group, look no further than your founder’s manifesto; but if you’re resorting to spamming for commercial purposes, you can promote your product or mount a phishing scam to steal little old ladies’ credit card numbers.
- Lastly, you’ll need a way to send these messages. You’ve got a few channels: longcodes, shortcodes, and email. Longcodes are regular 10-digit cell phone numbers you can pick up from any cell phone store. Shortcodes are a 4-5 digit code that requires provisioning and carrier approval, which can take a while and might not work if you’re a spammer. Email takes advantage of the fact that everyone’s mobile number is also an email address based on their carrier (i.e. email@example.com), so when you program that code to guess, you can have it guess carrier to and try to reach people this way. The favorite medium of choice for spammers is longcodes since they’re inexpensive and difficult to track.
So what – besides a basic ethical conscience – is stopping everyone from turning to a sinister life of stealing information from unsuspecting mobile users?
2) Who is combating spam?
There are several entities that are dedicated to making sure the mobile space stays a valuable space for consumers, marketers, and brands.
- Mobile Marketing Association is a worldwide non-profit trade association established to foster growth of mobile marketing. They publish a best practices document which is the mobile marketing bible. If you’ve ever heard the term “compliance,” it refers to being compliant with MMA’s Best Practices.
- CTIA, which originally stood for Cellular Telephone Industry Association, is an industry trade group that advocates for legislation and regulation in the mobile space. They also conduct audits, so if there’s an opt-in shortcode program out there that isn’t playing by the rules, they’ll hear from the CTIA.
- U.S. Government has passed legislation that makes SMS spam illegal. While enforcement is always difficult, there have been a few class action lawsuits that have fined some spammers substantial amounts (~$500 per spam message)
- Carriers are committed to curbing spam, too. If their subscribers are getting continually spammed, they’re might start to lose customers. We can actually help them police the space, as well. If you receive a spam message, you can copy and forward to text to the shortcode 7726 (that’s “SPAM” on most keypads) on most major carriers. Your carrier will then prompt you to reply with the phone number that sent the spam message to you. This data is then aggregated to identify the most prolific culprits, but again, nothing is to keep the spammer from just buying a new track phone.
3) How can I tell what is and isn’t spam?
Opt-in messages and alerts are often confused with spam since they might appear similarly on a user’s phone. However, opt-in shortcode programs are designed to deliver relevant content to subscribers who want them and give permission to brands to send them. Whether it’s a mobile coupon, an information alert, or an interactive instant win promotion or sweepstakes, we allow brands to engage with their subscribers to build a database of users who want to connect with them. Furthermore, opt-in programs are required to inform subscribers up-front about what they’ve signed up for and how they can get it out of it. An initial compliance message includes:
- Description of the messages you’ll be receiving
- Knowledge that message and data rates apply
- Expected messaged frequency
- Ability to text HELP for additional information
- Ability to unsubscribe by texting STOP or STOPALL
These regulations are required for shortcode programs, so you can be confident when you receive a message from a 4-5 digit number, rather than spam from a longcode or SMS email.
There are terrible scumbags out there who are abusing SMS to spam people – you might be one of them – but know that there are very big entities combating it. And Cellit: ePrize Mobile Solutions is committed to running compliant shortcode programs to connect brands and businesses with the subscribers that want to interact with them.
Questions? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org