FCC gets tougher than ever on robotexters

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It admits there’s a hole in the Do Not Call Registry but vows to fix that, too

Text this, Mr. Scammer! The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has formally adopted the very first regulations specifically targeting scam text messages sent to consumers. 

And with that stroke of the pen, mobile service carriers like AT&T and Verizon will be required to block certain robotext messages that are “highly likely to be illegal.”

The Commission had an interesting take on its order. Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said that anyone with a smartphone has become a Pavlovian-like lab animal, jumping to check their phone every time a text message comes in.

“But there are those who want to take advantage of this trust—and our instinct, like the subjects of Pavlov’s experiment, to assume something needs attention every time we hear our devices buzz.  We see this clearly in the growing number of junk texts showing up on our phones,”  she said. 

“Scam artists have found that sending us messages about a package you never ordered or a payment that never went through along with a link to a shady website is a quick and easy way to get us to engage on our devices and fall prey to fraud.”

The new line in the sand

The FCC’s new order requires carriers to block any text message that appears to come from phone numbers that are unlikely to transmit text messages. This includes invalid, unallocated, or unused numbers, probably including those from area codes 603, 607, or 608 that ConsumerAffairs was tipped off to, recently.   

Also included are numbers from government agencies and other well-known entities such as the IRS because as a FCC spokesperson told ConsumerAffairs, those agencies never call or text from one particular number.  So if a carrier saw a call or text “from” that number, they would block it knowing that it is highly likely to be illegal.

This is a nice start, but…

The agency thinks its order will do some good, but it also realizes that scammers are already trying to find ways around it. To stay one step ahead of those cybercrooks, the FCC also seeks public comment on ways that it could require carriers to block texts from companies or individuals that the agency has pegged as illegal robotexters.  

It was also upfront about the holes in the Do-Not-Call Registry and proposes to clarify that protection applies to sending text messages and clarifying that just because a person gives their one-time consent to a company to send them texts that it does not allow those companies or marketing agencies the freedom to send text pitches for other marketing subjects.

In the meantime, 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.

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