Suckered by a Spam Text Scam

I got scammed.

I got a text message yesterday that said “Free Msg from Verizon Wireless: We have new calling plans for UNLIMITED text to anyone in the US. Requires new customer agreement. Call 877-256-XXXX. To opt out reply X.”

This type of message is not completely unseen on my phone network. I’ve gotten a few “notice”-type emails in the few years I’ve been with Verizon, so before I even really knew what I was doing, I quickly replied “X” and hit send. And then I saw it: “Sending message to 9000XXX03671”

I realized what had happened. I had just texted 900-XXX-0036. And unfortunately, 900 numbers can charge, according to Verizon up to $25 or more for this type of thing. I IMMEDIATELY dialed 611 to talk to Verizon. Much the same way that if I complain with American Express, they can withhold payment from a merchant, I wondered, can Verizon refuse to square up on what was obviously a spam text scam?

Yes and no, apparently. The helpful rep I spoke with, “Sarah,” told me she could “flag” my account for a follow up when the billing cycle ends, but the agents cannot see live data and couldn’t see a text message within the last few days, let alone minutes. She promised to credit me whatever the message cost.

So I asked her the same question I’m broadcasting now: “Why do cell phone companies allow incoming text messages from 1-900 numbers?” Even if they were limited to just replies it would be an improvement. What possible reason could I have for a 1-900 number to send me an unsolicited message?

Is this the future of cell phone? SMS spam from 1-900 numbers? This is very dangerous ground, and I see where it’s heading: advertising spam (which has already started), “verified” senders, block lists, and finally an option to accept SMS only from your contacts. A new age is upon us. May the people who perpetrate these scams rot in the blackest pits of hell.

But Verizon is going to take care of me this time, and I won’t get suckered again. The moral of the story is: don’t reply to text messages from people who aren’t your contacts, period.

Within seconds of hanging up with Verizon, I got another message from 900XXX003671: “Thank you. If you want to eliminate all future SMS informational and marketing messages from Verizon Wireless, reply Q.”

Tagged , ,