New FCC ruling sends mobile carriers a very real message about stopping robospam texts

In a nutshell: Earlier this week, the FCC released its first ruling to address robospam and unlawful text messaging practices. The new directive requires mobile providers to block potentially illegal messages from invalid, unallocated, unused, or blocked numbers. The ruling is designed to provide all mobile users with similar levels of protection, regardless of their chosen mobile provider.

The new rules, officially adopted on March 16th, provide explicit instructions for wireless carriers to protect consumers from fraudulent and illegal text messages. Messaging scams, also known as robotexting, have become a prevalent problem over the last several years. Unlike robocalls, robotexts can employ several strategies for exploiting unsuspecting users, from social engineering to fraudulent but authentic-looking links and information.

Sharp increases in reported cases and loss amounts prompted the FCC to take recent action on behalf of all mobile consumers. According to the Commission’s statement, the number of roboscam complaints rose from 3,300 in 2015 to almost 19,000 in 2022. The accompanying report cites consumer losses due to fraudulent text messages totaling $231 million during the first three quarters of 2022. The staggering figure marks a more than 62% increase compared to 2020.

The new rules require mobile carriers to block messages suspected of fraudulent activity based on their origination point. The scope of the ruling applies to text messages originating from the North American Numbering Plan and numbers identified and included in a “reasonable” Do-Not-Originate (DNO) plan.

A DNO plan is submitted by providers and includes invalid, unallocated, unused numbers and any blocked numbers previously requested by its users. In addition to the blocking plans, carriers must have a specified point of contact for individuals to report erroneously blocked messages.

The scope of the new ruling applies to wireless networks that utilize the short message service (SMS) and multimedia messaging service (MMS) platforms. It does not cover over-the-top (OTT) messaging services that rely on existing internet services such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Telegram, etc.

Despite the new rules, mobile subscribers should not rely solely on their carrier’s newfound responsibilities to stay protected. The announcement references previous FCC recommendations and guidance for mobile consumers looking to protect themselves from scam messages. It includes tips and advice on what types of activity to watch for, how users can protect themselves from scams, information on the FCC’s current actions, and links to additional information on robotexts and other scams.

Based on the FCC’s announcement and comments, the new robotext spam ruling is the first of what could result in several future actions aimed at further protecting mobile subscribers.

“The Commission will also take further public comment on text authentication measures and other proposals to continue to fight illegal scam robotexts,” The FCC statement concluded.

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