When President Trump's campaign sent out texts to a million voters last month, red flags went off causing Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile to block them. The carriers, the FCC and the campaign are trying to get it all sorted out so that this peer-to-peer messaging can continue. The campaign claims it was not auto-dialing, but it caused some to wonder, what are the rights of cell phone users, companies and campaigns?
According to ARS Technica, the message said, "Hi, it's President Trump. I need your help ASAP to FIGHT BACK against the radical left & take back my majority. Take a stand NOW." The Business Insider wrote a longer article about it.
Zipwhip, the third-party company that blocked the texts on behalf of the carriers, says it doesn't comment on "contracts, customers or their texting traffic."
The FCC bans robotexts, or text messages sent to a mobile phone using an autodialer but allows campaigns to send the messages manually, which is what the Trump campaign claims it did.
But experts say to get ready - your phone could blow-up with a blizzard of text messages because campaigns are buying your phone number. They're using new software that makes it easier to find it.
Cyber security consultant for Intrust IT Dave Hatter says, "There are plenty of legitimate uses for text messaging from a lot of legitimate businesses who want to send texts." He says they do it because it's cheap and easy. He says from a consumer standpoint there are laws on the books that block some spam texts but there are gray areas.
"I think a lot of people know there's a National Do Not Call Registry you can put your number on, and while that will stop legitimate companies from pestering you with these robocalls and robotexts it's not going to stop the illegitimate companies. It's certainly not going to stop the scammers. They don't care about that sort of thing," says Hatter.
How Do Campaigns Get Your Phone Number?
- It's recorded in public voter files
- Social media sites sell your data
- You called an 800, 888 or 900 number
- You gave your number to companies
Political campaigns aside, there are plenty of COVID scams that text you. The Federal Trade Commission says don't take the bait.
You can report unwanted texts or scams to the FTC.gov/complaint.
Here's a map of the top complaints, which include unwanted texts for Ohio and Kentucky.
Beginning in March, the Federal Communications Commission started warning of text scams related to COVID-19. The bogus offers included free coronavirus tests asking for private and health insurance information and sham cures.
By clicking on a text message from a fake contract tracer you will download software onto your device, giving scammers access to your personal and financial information.
Hatter suggests checking with your cell carrier to find out how you can block unwanted texts. He says stay away from apps that monitor them. Hatter says they seem to put out a lot of spam themselves.
Hatter also suggests not opting out of spam when it asks you because he says that tells the company they have a legitimate number and will sell it to others.