Problem Spam: You Can Help STOP Text Abuse.
If you are like most Americans, you carry your cell phone wherever you go. You also rely on it to be accessible. What would you do if your cell phone was constantly ringing with solicitation calls? What if you kept getting constant text messages offering you ads and various “special deals”? What would you do if every time you gave out your cell number a business could endlessly barrage you with solicitation messages? Most of us cannot function without our cell phones and we also cannot function with cell phones constantly being slammed with solicitation calls. More and more, however, our privacy and rights to freedom from intrusion are being attacked by business spammers. They are hiring spammer text companies to send out spam text messages to their own customers without permission to do so. The reason is simple: money. Spam text messages are cheap, perhaps 2 cents a spam or less, and many times the businesses already have customer telephone numbers as part of the business transaction. But instead of asking the customer for permission to send spam text messages they just do it. When they do it without the prior express consent of the customer, they are in violation of Federal and State laws. What most consumers do not know is that text spammers may owe every customer that they spam $500 to $1,500 per spam text message!
Unlike residential numbers, cell phones are protected from auto dialed calls. Under the TCPA auto dialing equipment cannot be used to send text calls en masse to anybody with a cellular phone. A cellular number provided to a business related to the work being done is not permission for that company to send mobile spam. There must be express consent to send auto dialed calls or text messages. Many companies ignore this because with auto dialing computers they can send thousands of text messages a minute. Over time, they can spit out millions of spam text calls that tie up consumers’ cell phones and there is almost nothing consumers can do to get them to stop. Or so they may think. Actually you can do something to stop spam attacks. Many consumers have said “enough” and have sued to stop the text spam with lawsuits alleging that these text messages violate a Federal law called the TCPA.
The Telephone Consumer Protection Act ( The TCPA), was passed by Congress to protect our privacy and to stop automatic dialing abusive calling practices. The TCPA was passed to protect consumers from being mass texted with unwanted solicitations automatically dialed as calls or text messages. Consumers who take action to stop the spam can be reimbursed for actual damages or a minimum of $500 for every spam text message. The penalty can be $1,500 per text message if the violation is willful. The key to proving a violation of the TCPA is to show that the spam was sent by equipment with automatic telephone dialing systems (ATDS). The point of the law is to protect consumers from getting unauthorized mass automated text spam. The law requires a business to get a customer’s specific consent to be automatically dialed to count as valid consent. In plain English, just because you give a business your cell number it does not mean you consent to allow them to send you text spam or other robo calls. They can only mass text or call if they are up front and open about it so that customers have the opportunity to refuse the mass texts. They cannot text you first and then ask permission later. If they do, they may owe you $500.00 per text message. To ask permission after they send you a text or robo call is a TCPA violation.
This is generally how the text spam process works. You contact a company for a business need. It could be a pizza delivery, an oil change service or a medical office providing medical care. You want them to have the number in case they need to call you about that business transaction or in case you left your purse or they have a legitimate question or need related to the business issue. You give them your number but do so with no grant of any right to use it for spam or marketing. In fact, like most consumers you are probably careful to make sure to say “NO” if they ask for permission to spam you with marketing. But they don’t ask, they just do it. So before you know it your cell phone is ringing with spam calls from businesses advertising product sales all day and night and with no recourse. The calls may be robot recorded calls or spam text messages. They come from mysterious short code numbers and often will require you to take time, effort and wasted calls just to get them to stop texting you with calls you never asked to get. Many of these companies know that they can send these spam text calls with little cost and no bother to them or use of any company resources. They do not even have to pay for paper or ink and you, the consumer, foot the bill for the call.
The text spam problem is growing every day. Email is practically ruined with so many marketing spam emails. The more you try to stop the email spam the more that they spread. Like cancer, the more effort you take to unsubscribe the more they know they have a live lead and so the more spam you get. Now we must buy email spam blockers and we are on guard as we are careful to look out for email spam. This is a huge waste of time and money. We spend billions fighting email spam. Today, now that we know to look out for it (and because it is so pervasive) email spam is not as effective as it used to be. Once marketers realized that sending spam through e-mail wasn't’t gathering the attention they wanted, the businesses turned to your cell phone – knowing you would be carrying it 24 hours a day and that it would likely beep and otherwise demand your attention. It has been reported that the amount of spam sent by text messages has more than tripled to 45 million spam text messages every single day!
The only way we can prevent this text spam and robo call abuse is to unite. Merely calling does not work. As with email spam, spammers then just know they have a live customer and will keep sending the spam and may even sell the number. To fight back consumers need to complain to the FCC and file suit. Once the spammers get hit with enough lawsuits they will realize that the text spam does not pay. Eventually if it is costly, spammers will quit but until then consumers must unite to STOP the text spam.