While we’ve largely been able to rid our e-mail boxes of spam, now it’s just migrated to the texting apps on our smartphones. But today a smartphone app maker has come up with a way to let us instantly stop those spammers by automatically filing a complaint about them to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
The company is called PrivacyStar and it offers a series of paid applications for protecting your privacy on a smartphone. On Feb. 13, PrivacyStar said that it is offering a new free service for users of Google Android smartphones that allows them to instantly file text message spam complaints directly to the FTC from their phones.
I’ve written before about unwanted spam texts on my smartphone and about how they are not only a nuisance, but could be dangerous. Spam texts can be a delivery method for malware that can infect your phone, allowing someone to steal personal information from you. The scam is called “smishing,” which is a mashup of SMS (the acronym for short message service, aka texting) and phishing, a term for messages designed to look legitimate -- like from your bank or another trusted source -- but which is a mask for a malware scam.
I had been receiving spam texts inviting me to click on a link to enter a drawing to win a $1,000 Best Buy gift card. Suspicious, I ignored the message, but a few days later I got another text telling me I’d won, confirming my suspicions.
I filed a complaint with Google, which has a page for reporting suspected smishing, and with my carrier, AT&T. Microsoft, Mozilla and an agency within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security also have reporting systems, but I remember a friend saying they wish it were easier to file a complaint.
The people at PrivacyStar appear to be listening.
Their privacy protection is sold as a monthly service at $2.99 a month for Android and BlackBerry phones and a onetime only $2.99 for Apple iPhones. Those services included extending FTC “Do Not Call” blocking, originally just for home phones, to your smartphone, call blocking, reverse lookup and other features.
The instant FTC complaint feature, though, is only available on Android phones, but it is free to all Android users. UPDATE: In an earlier version of this story, I mistakenly reported that the FTC app was only free to subscribers to the Android paid package of services.
Analysts estimate that as many as 4.5 billion spam text messages were received in the U.S. in 2012, a 45 percent increase from 2011, according to Jeff Stalnaker, the CEO of PrivacyStar.
Unsolicited text messages are not only annoying and could deliver malware, but they also count against the number of text messages that you can receive each month, depending on how your data plan is set up, so they can cost you money.
“PrivacyStar is thrilled to offer an application with simple, one-touch call and text message complaint filing so mobile users can easily report those who are breaking the rules to the FTC,” said Stalnaker, in a news release.
If you’ve experienced unsolicited text spam and want to stop it, PrivacyStar might be worth checking out.