FCC takes on robotexts. Good news if your dad thinks IRS gives SMS rebates

But how will you know when your vehicle's extended warranty has expired?

The FCC has opened proceedings to fight scam text messages that have become an increasing part of daily life for US consumers (and techies who have to talk grandma out of clicking that FedEx package delivery link).

The FCC's plans are less about reinventing the wheel and more about applying existing rules toward a new end – in this case the FCC is taking comments on applying caller ID authentication standards and call blocking requirements to text messages. 

According to the FCC, the number of scam, unwanted and/or illegal text messages reports that the Commission has received has grown rapidly in the past few years. In 2020, the Commission said it received 14,000 unwanted text complaints, a 146 percent increase from the year prior. In 2021 that number rose to 15,300, and by June 30 of this year the FCC had already received 8,500 similar complaints. 

"Scam text messaging has become a growing threat to consumers' wallets and privacy. More can be done to address this growing problem and today we are formally starting an effort to take a serious, comprehensive, and fresh look at our policies for fighting unwanted robotexts," FCC chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said last week. 

According to the FCC, it requires mobile network operators to block calls at the network level, preventing them from ever reaching consumers. Like calls, "we propose to require mobile wireless providers to block texts, at the network level, that purport to be from invalid, unallocated, or unused numbers, and numbers on a Do-Not-Originate (DNO) list," the Commission said in its notice of proposed rulemaking. 

Like calls, the FCC said, robotexts invade privacy and are disruptive; Unlike calls, "texted links can also load unwanted software, including malware that steals passwords and other credentials, onto a device," the FCC said. According to its data, scammers manage to steal $86 million from consumers through text fraud schemes in 2020.

When addressing robocalls, the FCC - and former FCC chair Ajit Pai, in particular -  was criticized for moving too slowly to address the issue and being receptive to industry arguments against robocall blocking plans. After Rosenworcel took control of the FCC in 2021, the Commission began taking action against robocalls starting with a look at mobile carrier's internal call blocking technology.

As was reported in 2021, most mobile carriers have the ability to block robocalls through said internal call blocking tech, but most choose not to because, regardless of the type of call, carriers still make money. 

With its publication on 27 September, interested parties have 30 days to comment on the newly proposed rules before they're bound by them. ®

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