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WASHINGTON— The Federal Communications Commission is cracking down on spammy text messages with new rules for telecom companies, citing a surge of consumer complaints in recent years tied to unwanted robotexts.
The new rules require phone providers to block text messages from suspicious sources including phone numbers that appear to be "invalid, unallocated, or unused." Carriers will also have to block text messages coming from phone numbers that claim not to ever send text messages, or that the government has identified as numbers not used for texting, the FCC said.
The move mirrors a similar U.S. government effort to shut down illegal robocalls, which has led to at least one phone provider being cut off entirely from the U.S. telephone network. Robocall monitoring services say the effort has largely been successful at reducing the volume of robocalls. But in recent years, an explosion of spam and scam text messages appears to have taken their place, leading to more than 18,000 consumer complaints at the FCC last year.
The FCC is mulling additional regulations that could, among other things, apply Do Not Call registry protections to text messages for the first time. The FCC said it is also considering making it harder for marketers to use a single consumer consent to flood that user with calls and text messages from multiple sources and numbers.
Unwanted or scam robotexts can be an even greater risk to consumers than unwanted robocalls, the FCC said, because unlike phone calls, text messages may contain malicious links that can infect a smart device with dangerous software.
"Scam artists have found that sending us messages about a package you never ordered or a payment that never went through along with a link to a shady website is a quick and easy way to get us to engage on our devices and fall prey to fraud," said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel in a statement.
The FCC voted to adopt the new rules in a unanimous 4-0 decision.