We've all received them – those unsolicited texts stating that you may be entitled to compensation from a car accident or mis-sold insurance policy. They are annoying, invasive and you're left wondering how on earth the sender has got hold of your phone number.
Now firms who 'text spam' face fines of up to £500,000 as the authorities attempt to clamp down on this fast-growing problem.
I received one such text just this weekend, reading: "Free Msg: Important! Records indicate you are entitled to £5,200 from Mis-Sold Loan Insurance (PPI). To claim reply YES to this message. Thank you."
Well I have never purchased PPI and even if I had, I'm not happy receiving a sinister text from a stranger who appears to be interested in my financial business.
Spam texts can be a lucrative business for the sender – a lead generated by text can be sold for £5 to a claims management firm, which can then be sold on for £300 to claims solicitors, says the Direct Marketing Association, whose members use texting to market services legitimately.
The aim of spam texts is to gain a response – even replying with STOP will confirm that your phone is active and therefore a potential communication route.
Last year the Information Commissioner's Office established that the messages are being sent from unregistered pay as you go SIM cards and announced it was working with telecoms providers to trace the locations from which large clusters of messages are being sent.
Now from this month, the Information Commissioner's Office has the power to fine organisations that send texts to consumers who did not agree to receive them.
Simon Entwisle, director of operations at the ICO, said: "We believe there has been a huge increase towards the end of last year in sending texts to randomly generated numbers."
Entwisle said the ICO was determined to trace offenders, but faced a difficult task. "The spammers are not easy to track down," he told the Daily Mail. "There is a spider's web of organisations that are linked in this and everyone we talk to says that as far as they are concerned these leads have been obtained legitimately."
Report spam texts
Sending an unsolicited message – otherwise known as a spam text – breaches the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR).
Accident claims, debts and mis-sold payment protection are the top three subjects of text spamming. If you have received one which you have responded to, causing your details to be passed onto a claims company, report it as soon as possible to the Information Commissioner's Office on 0303 123 1113.
You can also report spam texts to your mobile operator by forwarding the message to one of these numbers: Orange, O2 and T-Mobile: to 7726; Vodafone: to 87726; Three: to 37726.