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What's Bugging You? Text-message spam

June 2, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Some companies are sending spam text messages charging for fees, and that's bugging ABC7 viewers.

Alan Piercy now looks over his text messages very carefully making sure not to miss a thing.

"I didn't ask for this. I didn't approve this, but now I've got to pay for this?" said Piercy.

Piercy received two text messages advertising a service. He ignored them and forgot about it. But he says a short time later he got an email notifying him he subscribed to a premium service and the charge is $9.99 per month.

"Really my frustration was, How did the thing get authorized and get on there in the first place? Because I had done nothing but ignored the text messages I received," said Piercy.

It's not authorized; basically a third party company sets up as a legitimate business, but then sends out spam text messages and starts charging fees. Cellphone companies are trying to stop this.

Verizon has taken the lead but wouldn't do an interview on camera because of a pending lawsuit. In a news release the company called it an "intricate fraudulent enterprise."

"On this issue of text messaging fraud, that's a perfect example," said Califiornia State Attorney General Kamala Harris.

Harris says her office is looking into this and that consumers need to be protected.

"There is a dark side to this technology also, which is that just like any other world, in this new world, crimes are occurring" said Harris. "Crimes are occurring."

No cell companies would go on camera. They all sent statements.

"T-Mobile also has extensive filters built into the network to help detect and block spam text messages being sent to customers' handsets."

AT&T: "If third parties do not abide by our customer protection policies we can (and have) terminated their ability to sell content to our customers."

"Sprint is committed to protecting the interests of our customers. Sprint suspended certain premium short codes earlier this month to provide an opportunity for obtaining additional information in light of questions that have emerged."

Verizon refunded the charges on Piercy's account. He says he was lucky he caught it. He often just pays his bill without looking at it too closely.

"My bill fluctuates a little bit here and there every month and I probably would have never caught it. How many other people are sitting out there that aren't catching this?" said Piercy.

That's why you need to look over your phone charges every month, and if you see anything unusual call your carrier. The company will usually refund the money and can place a block on your account. But you have to let them know about it.

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