FCC considers new rules to block unusual sus texts

Scammy texts are on the rise, and the FCC wants operators to block the ones most likely to be fraudulent

The Federal Communications Commission is considering new rules that would obligate service providers to block texts that are likely to be scams or spam.

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel proposed the new rules, which will be up for a vote at the Commission’s March meeting.

As of the third quarter of 2022, the Federal Trade Commission reported that texts were outpacing every other form of contact by scammers. Out of more than half a million fraud reports to the FTC, nearly 82,000—the single largest category where the contact method was reported—began via text message, resulting in consumers being scammed out of $92 million, with the median loss at $1,000. Comparatively, scammers were able to get a median of $1,500 out of phone scams, resulting in $203 million in consumer losses; social media scams accounted for 43,000 initial contacts but the largest dollar amount of losses, at $324 million, and a median loss of $600 per individual.

SMS-based scams, sometimes referred to a “smishing” (SMS + phishing) often claim to be a follow-up on an non-existent order or delivery, threaten that a bank or service is about to close a personal account and payment is due, say that an individual has won a prize that has to be claimed, or draw people in with a spoofed number that asks “Is this you?” with a shady link.

“Missing packages that don’t exist; confirmation of payments that didn’t happen; links to
shady websites; and truncated ‘wrong number’ messages from strangers. These scam robotexts are a part of everyday life for too many of us,” said Rosenworcel. “I’m asking
my colleagues to join me in adopting the first FCC rules to focus on shutting down scam texts. But we’re not stopping here. Because we are going to keep at it and develop more ways to take on this growing consumer threat.”

The rules proposed by Rosenworcel would extend some of the same protections and strategies that the FCC has taken on robocalls, such as Do-Not-Call Registry protections, to text messages. It would require texts to be blocked that 1) are from, or purport to be from, invalid, unallocated or unused phone numbers, 2) on a Do-Not-Originate list, which would enable government agencies and other well-known entities to confirm that they never send text messages, so any message purporting to be from their number is illegitimate, or 3) are coming from upstream providers that are known to be transmitting illegal robotexts.

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