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Mobile Spam

Delicious banana creme snack or spam scraping trojan horse?

The other day I bought one of those new banana creme-filled Twinkies!

It seemed delicious enough, and it was!

After eating it in six seconds, I noticed on the wrapper they had some kind of cool contest going on!

It said I could enter by visiting their website or by sending a text message to them.. how modern of Hostess!

Since I couldn’t find anything about the contest at hostesscakes.com, I decided, what the hey… I’ll text em to win!

I’d never done any of those “text blah to 1234 to win” things before, so I was mostly curious to see if I’d start to get mobile spam…

The first known instance of mobile spam.

Well, I texted. And, I got:

Sorry, UR not a winner. Play again tomorrow! Thx from Hostess. See rules at www.hostesscakes.com. Std/other txt msg rates apply. Help? Txt HELP.

So I decided to send them “HELP”. I got back:

4 help w/the sweepstakes, pls email us incl cell number hostess@promosvcs.com or call 8663510327 2 stop, txt STOP. Other charges may apply

Hmm, okay, I figured I’d better send them “STOP” now. So I did, and received…

This message confirms that u have unsubscribed and will no longer receive messages from Hostess sweepstakes. Questions email hostess@promosvcs.com

Alright, fair enough… I figured after that perhaps they were nice and legit and weren’t going to keep sending me messages or sell me out to 3rd party lists.

Two Days Later

I got a text message.

It was from “757-14”, and it said:

RingAZA! Enter UR PIN online to get UR BONUS TONES & Credits! 9.99/mo UR PIN = 2679. Info=HELP or 1-866-616-6067 Quit=STOP. othr chrgs may apply

Twinkie the Kid had sold me out!

Don't try and play innocent with me, Twinkie!

I couldn’t believe it. Well, I sort of could. I guess I asked for it. Nevertheless, I texted back, “STOP” though I did it with the same feeling one gets when trying to stop a tsunami with a paper napkin.

RingAZA! U have been unsubscribed from Text Alerts. You will not receive any additional messages going forward. More info 866-616-6067

Hmm, well, maybe I was in the clear after all…

The Next Day

RingAZA! Great Job, Ur Ringtones R Ready! Reply YES now & Pick all Ur Bonus Content! UR not being billed 4 this msg. 4 info: http://75714.net. Sub = 9.99/mo

There’s just something so creepy about TXT-speak in corporate messages (and spam).

Just for the hey of it again, I once more sent back “STOP”… and again got exactly the same unsubscribe message.

RingAZA! U have been unsubscribed from Text Alerts. You will not receive any additional messages going forward. More info 866-616-6067

The Next Day

To my absolute surprise, nothing!

And actually, I haven’t gotten a single sms spam since then. Maybe there IS some sort of higher level of accountability to txt spamming, since for your “short code” (e.g. 75714) to work you have to actually make a deal with all the major cell carriers?

I dunno why, but this incident got me thinking a little bit about what the “state of the spamming world” must be like these days.

It’s got to be getting at least a little harder to get people’s email addresses as a spammer, right? It used to be everybody had their email address on their web site, or in their WHOIS info, or publicly posted to a newsgroup or a mailing list, or used it when registering for anything online.

Nowadays, it seems like everybody’s just got a contact form, uses Domain Privacy, just posts in online forums (where their email is hidden), and uses throw-away hotmail/yahoo/spam.la addresses when creating online accounts.

And on top of it all, spam filtering is finally getting a bit better. I bet them’s some lean times right now in the email spam business.

Same delicious taste, without all the fat!!

One More Anecdote

In fact, I have another little story about how desperate times seem to be for spammers!

My wife recently started a floral design business, and so she got a couple of those door magnets for our car advertising her business URL, phone number, and email address.

Well, one time we got back to the car and noticed one of the two magnets was gone! How strange we thought.. had it fallen off? Had somebody taken it? If so, why? As a prank? Was it a competitor? Maybe a potential customer who didn’t have a pen handy?

That was sort of annoying, but not a huge deal; it was only $17.

It really generates a lot of business.

But then a funny thing happened.

About a week later, my wife got her first spam ever to her newly-created business email address.. the one that’d been on the magnetic car door sign!

Man, those spammers must really be desparate to stoop to such labor-intensive, low-brow email address-harvesting techniques!

And what was that spam for?

Magnetic car door signs!

Ha, I couldn’t believe it! And ever since then, she gets about three spams a week to that address.. all for magnetic car door signs!

It’s not spam, it’s blackmail!

About the author

Josh Jones