(WASHINGTON) — You hear the text message alert ping, scramble to find your phone, only to find that the message is from an unknown number and the message is asking you to click on a link or text back.
It’s text spam, and according to data released Thursday by the Pew Research Center, 69 percent of those who text say they get unwanted spam or text messages. Additionally, 25 percent of those admit to getting spam texts once a week.
“They [customers] say text spam is more invasive to them than junk mail or even spam emails. And sometimes, the recipients even have to pay for the texts that they never wanted in the first place,” Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Research Center, told ABC News.
Pew’s recent data also detailed other phone annoyances (72 percent of cell owners experience drop calls and 68 percent get marketing calls on their cells), but CloudMark, a company that helps in the reporting of mobile spam, has also seen a rise in the messages. In April and July of 2012 SMS spam peaked significantly, says the company.
“Mobile is becoming the new attack tool for criminals looking for a quick profit,” Mary Landesman, senior security researcher at Cloudmark, told ABC News.
Landesman explained that criminals can profit from mobile spam in a few ways: they can attempt to get people to divulge personal information through text or they can manipulate people into sending premium rate SMS messages, which can cost much more than a regular text.
The two major questions, of course, are: how are they getting the numbers? And what can you do to stop the issue?
Landesman explained that many of these attackers are guessing at the numbers and rarely are working off stolen lists. So, unfortunately there’s not much you can do to stay safe.
But to stop the issue there’s a bit more you can do. In fact, there’s one thing you should do and one thing you shouldn’t. You can forward the spam message to 7726, which alerts the carrier so they can investigate and take action.
What you shouldn’t do is text message the word STOP back.
“Many of these messages tell them reply with the word STOP. The problem with that action is verifying to the attacker that they have a real live number,” Landesman said. In other words, texting back can only make the issue worse and will make that text message ping even more frequently.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Ivaylo Vezenkov and Lauren del Valle, CNN
Erin McClam, CNN
Paul Menser, BizMojo Idaho