FCC Warns of Rising Robotext Scams


The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has noticed “substantial increases” in complaints about scam robotexts, it warned this week.

The Commission issued an alert warning consumers that these texts are on the rise. It added that it was also seeing more reports of scam texts from robocall and robotext blocking services.

The FCC tracks consumer complaints rather than text volumes. The alert said these complaints have risen from 5700 in 2019 to 15,300 last year. The first six months of this year saw 8500 complaints, putting it on track for a record 17,000 this year.

Text-based scammers seek either money or personal information, the FCC said. Their messages often include fake claims about package deliveries, unpaid bills or bank account issues. Some pretend to be texting someone else, it warned.

According to RoboKiller, Americans got 12.02 billion scam texts in June alone. The volume of spam texts rose 58% to 87.85 billion last year, it said in its 2021 Phone Scam Insights report.

In June 2021, the FCC mandated the use of an anti-spoofing technology called the secure telephone identity revisited (STIR) protocol, and its implementation framework, signature-based handling of asserted information using toKENs (SHAKEN). These anti-spoofing technologies are intended to stop scammers by applying digital signatures to telephone numbers from calling parties on session initiation protocol (SIP) networks. However, the technology only addresses voice calls and not text messages.

In October 2021, acting FCC chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel proposed a rule that would force mobile providers to block illegal text messages.

“Cyber-criminals are increasingly using text messages as a method to bypass the security controls typically implemented in email and other communication systems,” said Josh Yavor, chief information security officer at Tessian, warning that the core protections people can obtain for email don’t exist with text messages. “With email, people have a better chance to identify that a sender or email address is illegitimate, but that is much more difficult with short codes and spoofed numbers on SMS,” he argued.

The FCC warned people to avoid responding to suspicious texts or clicking on any links they might contain. They can forward unwanted texts to SPAM (7726), it added.

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