A Surge of Smartphone Spam
Remember the days when spam was free? Forget the fact that you hate it and had just now gotten used to the fact that it was constantly aiming for your inbox. Now these pesky messages are everywhere, including your phone. Also, they're not just annoying, but they're costing unlucky recipients money. For a lot of people every text to their phone translates to another little charge on their bill. Given the ease that smartphones allow people to follow links in their SMS messages, spammers are attempting to cash in on this. These texts are growing more an more prevalent., often offering free gift certificates, iPads, and iPhones. Just for fun, I took the bait, so you wouldn't have to. Here's one from yesterday:
It appears I was randomly selected, which is sort of true. These spammers are using automated dialers to send these out en masse. Don't be tricked into responding to them or clicking on the links. If you respond, they'll often be able to tell that they've got a live one, and you'll quickly become a favorite.
This particular campaign is simply an attempt to trick you into willfully accepting their unrelenting "marketing" blasts. They never really give you anything, nor does it seem that they ever offer anything real. Often times though, these can lead to malware, the mobile market is a growing target for these guys as operating systems become more and more predicable (read: iOS/Android). Back to this campaign though - The way this one works for them is the same way it works in another shady practice called "Pay Per Install". The PPI business is all over the place, but can probably be best exemplified by those sneaky toolbars that people accidentally install while trying to install another piece of software. In the PPI business people will become affiliates for other software makers, some "legitimate", others not so much, and for every unique install of this person's software, that that affiliate gets, they make a little money. The only way for them to make anything noticeable is by sending these things to as many people as possible in the hopes that enough people will fall for it. These texts messages work the same way. The person blasting out these texts are affiliates of other people trying to rip you off. You can see this person's affiliate id appended to the back of the URL in the link above. Every time a unique IP visits that website, this affiliate makes a little money. If you had followed this link, you would have noticed that you would have been redirected to about six or seven different sites, each one with a different affiliate ID. This is likely the same person attempting to utilize and capitalize on several different programs at once. Eventually though, the viewer will end up here:
Any email will do, they just want to keep in touch! Next they want you to complete an innocuous 3 question survey, I'm not even sure what they could've used that information for, but I'm sure they have something in mind.
Pick your gift.
Weird, didn't I already do this?! I just clicked "Validate" this time, and Gandalf let me pass.
Now they collect even more information at which to annoy you. Let's check this fine print. The usual deal with these survey scams is that they'll get you to agree to receive several very high cost text messages to your phone, I thought for sure that's what they had planned here, but instead they just want you to understand that you have to make purchases from their affiliates and continue making purchases from them, and then make some more, and then they will be able to say that you didn't hold up your end of the bargain and broke the contract so they won't have to send you anything. Just in case somehow you do legally stay true to their ridiculous demands, they also have a clause that says"Company reserves the right to substitute a product of comparable value for the reward. "Comparable value" shall be determined by Company in its sole discretion". "Company" doesn't even have a name. Also included is an agreement to further accept their future spam onslaught, which was certainly not legal in the first place thanks both to the CAN-SPAM Act as well as the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. I'm not sure how binding this electronic contract is, but they've certainly put forth the effort.