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New text-blocking app protects against COVID-19 scams

The app was developed by TelTech Systems, which made the companion RoboKiller app

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To crack down on the proliferation of COVID-19-related scams, the company that makes a call-blocking app has expanded the concept to stop potentially harmful text messages.

RoboKiller is an app that targets robocalls, many of which are pitching worthless products and outright scams. The latest sister-app is called TextKiller, and it can protect its customers from text messages that are coming from numbers not listed in their contacts.

RoboKiller caught many consumers’ fancy when it added answer bots to its call-screening app, making telemarketers think they were talking to a real person. The company said it developed TextKiller to deal with the reported influx of spam text messages that are associated with COVID-19. These messages usually promote worthless products that supposedly protect users from the coronavirus.

FTC complaints

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has reported receiving nearly 52,500 complaints from consumers complaining about COVID-19 scams. The agency recently put the total losses from these criminal schemes at more than $38 million.

Last week, the FTC sent warning letters to 35 marketers, ordering them to stop making unsubstantiated claims that their products and therapies can treat or prevent COVID-19. It was the sixth set of warning letters the FTC has sent concerning health-related COVID-19 scams. 

Some of the products targeted by the agency so far include “treatments,” including Chinese herbal medications, music therapy, ozone therapy, and shields that claim to boost the immune system by protecting the wearer from electromagnetic fields. The FTC has pointed out that there is no scientific evidence that these, or any products or services, can treat or cure COVID-19.

Patrick Falzon, general manager at TelTech Systems, which makes the apps, says the company created TextKiller in response to the growing wave of coronavirus scams, often directed at older adults.

"We build products like TextKiller to protect our customers from dangerous scams and provide them with end-to-end solutions to a growing problem," Falzon said.

Can reportedly block 95 percent of spam texts

Falzon says TextKiller uses machine-learning to block 95 percent of spam text messages and is powered by RoboKiller's spam text database. Users may also create filters by adding specific phone numbers and keywords like "buy now" or "masks" to a blacklist that will block the message. 

At the same time, keywords like “emergency” can be added to a whitelist, which will allow the messages to be received even if the number isn’t in the user’s contacts. Rejected messages get stored in a separate Junk SMS tab.

TextKiller is available at no charge for a limited time in the Apple App Store.

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