How to Deal with Accident Claim Spam SMS

Posted on Updated on

New Research from DMA: 43% of people in the UK have received such a message

For the last two years, we have frequently seen spam accident claims text messages. Having taken many a straw poll at events and conferences it seems that a significant percentage of people in the UK have experienced these messages.

This article explains who is sending them and what you can do about it:

From: 447973017918

Free Msg; Our records indicate you may be entitled to £3750 for the accident you had. To claim free reply CLAIM to this message. To opt out text STOP.

The number that it comes from frequently changes, as does the reply keyword (eg CLAIM or YES) and the amount.

Who is sending these messages?

The people sending out these messages are known as ‘claims farmers’. These are companies who find leads and then sell those to accident claims management companies. By the time they reach the claims management service, they are verified leads of people who may well have a legitimate accident claim.

There are 100s of claims farmers in the UK and it would seem that many of them are involved with this type of SMS activity. RBS Insurance did a study last year and found that 11% of accident claims started with this type of SMS.

Surely it’s Illegal?

It all depends on how you define ‘illegal’. It’s not a criminal activity – for example there is no evidence that they are trying to defraud anyone by asking for money.  However it does breach a number of regulations. It breaches the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations in two ways:

1. The company sending the message is not identified – some people think the company is called ‘FREEMSG:’, however that is simply telling the recipient that the message was free to receive (which it is).

2. The recipient did not opt-in to receive the message. There are two types of opting-in – a hard opt-in is where you specifically agreed to receive the information, and a soft-opt in is where you may have been in contact with a company to buy something or a discussion about buying something, or you may have allowed your details to be given to a third party for marketing purposes.

Typically companies sending spam will claim that you gave your details on a website at some point. However, the onus is on them to show exactly where they got your details and prove that you opted-in. Simply saying ‘you gave your details on a website’ is not acceptable. It is clear from the number of people I have contacted that they would not have given out their mobile phone details at any time.

Accident claims and debt management companies are regulated by the Ministry of Justice (MOJ). Under their regulations, claims marketing messages cannot be misleading or alarming. These text messages breach both of those requirements.

Their website is here: https://www.claimsregulation.gov.uk/index.aspx
You can complain by email: info@claimsregulation.gov.uk or by phone on 0845 450 6858 or 01283 233 309.

Will receiving or  replying by SMS cost me money?
The short answer is no (apart from any cost to send a standard SMS). Any SMS that makes a charge to your phone must come from a shortcode number (4,5 or 6 digit number), and there are strict set of guidelines that make it very difficult to do illegally. If you feel that it may have cost you money then contact the regulator, PhonepayPlus. They have emergency powers to shut down any service that breaches their regulations.

What should I do with the SMS? Reply, delete it or report it?
Some people believe that SMS is like email, and that replying to it will verify the mobile number. That is not the case with SMS. All text messages include a delivery receipt, so the sender knows that you have a live mobile number without you having to reply.

On the whole it is better not to reply to the messages. There is no evidence that replying to the message will initiate further texts or calls (I have replied to a few of them and received just one phone-call back), however if you are worried about further spam, then don’t send a reply.

You could reply telling them to ‘Fcuk Off’. It will make you feel better, but it will do nothing. In all likelyhood their systems will only recognise the reply words in the message (CLAIM or STOP), so your reply will simply end up unnoticed on the server. If you really want them to read the message then start your reply with the keyword (eg CLAIM) then tell them to ‘Fcuk Off’. Or better still, tell them that you are reporting their spam to the MOJ (see below).

DON’T DELETE THE MESSAGE. Even though it’s annoying to have it on the phone, it cannot damage your mobile in any way. You WILL need the message on your phone if you are going to do make a complaint.

How to Report a Spam Message
Definately report it to the MOJ (see emails and phone numbers above). They may or may not be able to do something but it is essential they know it is happening. The MOJ are very concerned about this kind of activity.

You should also report it to your operator. All UK operators have some kind of spam reporting service (though not always made very public). I found the following:

Orange, O2, T-Mobile and Three: Forward the SMS to 7726

Vodafone: Forward the SMS to VSPAM (87726)

Alternatively complain through their customer service department.

Ultimately your operator can only help filter the messages, not stop them entirely. Filtering SMS can be problematic as unlike an email they lack any real data – it can only see the message and the sending number. Thus, variations in the message or the number it comes from may by-pass the spam filter. However, keep report it as it all helps them deal with the problem.

How did they get my number?
To be clear, your mobile operator cannot sell or give your number to a third party, so it will not have come directly from there. There are a number of ways they can get your number:

1. Rogue individuals at mobile operators – although the operator will not have sold your number it is possible that someone working or contracting for them did do that. There was an incident with a T-Mobile employee doing just that in 2009.

2. Unscrupulous data providers – this is the most likely route. These providers collect numbers through a range of sources such as websites or online surveys and sell them on, claiming they are legitimate.

3. Number generation – there are set operator codes, so it is possible to take those codes and randomly generate the last six digits. This, however is quite an expensive way to send messages, as many of the SMSs will fail (but the spammer will still pay to send them).

The best way to deal with the spammers
The ideal way to deal with the spammers is to find out exactly who the company is and report the information to the MOJ. Unfortunately that means replying to the message. I haven’t had any noticable spam as a result, so if you are prepared to take the risk then it’s worth it. It is really important to get as much information about the company as possible. At the every least their website address. Ideally get them to confirm by email or SMS. They have been known to deny phone conversations. If it is a phone conversation then make notes of the date and time of the call, the number they called from (if you have it) and the name of the person you spoke to. Once you have the information, send it to the MOJ.

Update
I replied to one of the accident claim texts. About four days later I got a call from a withheld number. The caller said ‘we believe you have been recently injured in an accident’. I asked who was calling, and was vaguely told that they were a ‘network of claims managers’. They said my number had been passed on by another company. I asked who that company was and they told me they didn’t know. I asked them to call back with the company name and they said they would. Suffice to say I’ve never heard back from them.

If you have experienced spam SMS from accident or debt management companies, then please add (a shortish) comment here.

About these ads

30 thoughts on “How to Deal with Accident Claim Spam SMS

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Gary Bury, Mark Brill. Mark Brill said: Had a spam 'accident claim' SMS? Here's a few ways to deal with them: http://t.co/qMWLCla [...]

    Nichola said:
    April 28, 2011 at 7:15 pm

    I started getting these texts a week after a broke my leg. I’ve no idea how they got my number as the hospital don’t have it, nor did I make any sort of claim. I generally ignore the messages as I knew it was spam, but I must admit the timing was very eerie!

      txt4ever said:
      April 28, 2011 at 8:23 pm

      I think you’ll find it’s just pure coincidence. Whilst some insurers will pass on details, they will only do it with the express permission of the person concerned. The most likely way they got hold of your number is if you have given it on a (less than reputable) website, or alternatively we are aware of some leakage from individuals working for mobile operators.

    [...] on from the previous blogs about unsolicited texts for accident claims, it seems that some of the spammers have switched to mis-sold load protection insurance messages. [...]

    Ian said:
    May 24, 2011 at 1:43 pm

    I started receiving them (and phone calls) after someone went into the back of my car. Either my insurer (Direct Line) or his (can’t remember which off heart) clearly passed my personal details on to 3rd parties illegally in breach of the data protection act. I’ve been hounded since by phone text and e-mail every now and then. When I requested from those who phoned me to give me details of their source for the data as they had obtained it illegally they never got back to me.

      txt4ever said:
      May 24, 2011 at 1:57 pm

      As there are so many accident claims messages, there is the possibility that it was a coincidence. Insurers may ask you if they can pass your details on but obviously not without your permission. I think it is unlikely that they passed your details on, as it would indeed breach the DPA. The companies carrying out the spam messaging are disreputable ‘claims farmers’ rather than insurance companies themselves. To message you without your opt-in consent would breach the Privacy and Electronic Communications Act (PECR), rather than the DPA. The company must identify themselves in the message, call or email. Failure to do so would also breach the PECR. Similarly they should also be able to tell you how they believe you opted-in to receive the information.
      I would recommend reporting this to the MOJ Claims Regulation Management and the Information Commissioner’s Office. You will need to provide them with as much information as possible such as the time, date, details and the number used for SMS or phone calls (again it is a breach of Ofcom regulations to call soliciting business without showing their phone number).

    Cris said:
    May 27, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    I’ve started getting these sms two weeks after I had small car accident.
    The numbers I get these sms from are:004407526307980, 00447592529730 and 00447825817876;
    Lately they added the word “AID”: ‘To claim for free reply with AID to this message”

      txt4ever said:
      May 28, 2011 at 11:11 am

      Thanks. It’s hard to say if it was as a result of the accident or just a coincidence – given the number of these that have been sent out, it’s quite likely it was by chance. They change the from numbers frequently I’m afraid.

    James Wiseman said:
    June 9, 2011 at 4:27 pm

    Great info, thanks. I’ve been running and running with this on my website. http://www.jameswiseman.com/blog/2011/01/17/debt-settlement-order-unsolicited-text-message/. So far I’ve seen about ten variants, and as far as I can see these will just keep growing

      txt4ever said:
      June 9, 2011 at 5:05 pm

      Thanks for the comments and link to your blog (loved the chainsaw story). In terms of the reply numbers used, they are pay as you go SIMS (usually on O2). They are only used for a few days and then deleted. Have checked a couple of the ones on your list and they are deleted now.
      Through the Direct Marketing Association, we got all of the main regulators and industry specialists to sit down and address the problem in a unified way. It won’t be instant I’m afraid, but we now have the right tools to deal with the problems. I’ve sent you an email to the address used for your comment – you don’t receive it, or it isn’t a real one, then please drop me a line through here or Twitter (@marktxt4ever) as I’d like to collate any information that you have got.

    Strange mobile spam « Martin Rich's Blog said:
    June 14, 2011 at 9:55 am

    [...] by trying random numbers in (for the UK) the 07 range.  Still, it’s interesting to read here about what these spam messages are trying to achieve, and what their legal position [...]

    plz help i hate these texts said:
    July 23, 2011 at 10:47 am

    i have had 4 texts so far i get them evry week, the 1st was about accident, the 2nd was an invite 2 a party which i had 2 claim, i have been deleting them and not replying to them, what the best thing i should do the next time i get 1?? foward them 2 the number u gave above??

      Mark Brill responded:
      July 28, 2011 at 5:00 pm

      I would suggest that you ignore them. In the case of spammers, replying stop will not help. You can also report them to your operator (numbers above) and/or the Information Commissioner’s Office. However, unless you can clearly identify the company, there may be very little they can do about it.

    Mark Brill responded:
    August 1, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    If 7726 isn’t working you should check with your network operator. It’s certainly supposed to work! That will not end the messages themselves, but it may help to give them further information to beat the spammers.

      plz help i hate these texts said:
      August 3, 2011 at 7:47 pm

      ill try tht thanks, its very annoyin if am with ppl nd a get them…

    Tricia Booth said:
    August 8, 2011 at 1:03 pm

    We got this today, with the reply number given as +447549294123; it’s never happened before, but recently we did put in an insurance claim for a minor car accident – the timing is therefore more than coincidental.

      Mark Brill responded:
      August 8, 2011 at 2:18 pm

      It’s difficult to say if it’s connected. If the message is anonymous and it is the standard ‘our records indicate …’ then it is a coincidence. We are aware that insurers can pass on information then it would be a ‘qualified lead’ which is worth more money. If it was qualified then you would typically be contacted by phone and by a named company.

    Badger said:
    October 12, 2011 at 9:23 pm

    In the past when I’ve been called by these companies I’ve tried to have some fun. Stringing it out and blocking their attempts to get more info from me whilst suggesting that I’d be happy to comply then asking them to hold the line etc. Unfortunately it’s hardly sticking it to the man as your talking to some guy with one he’ll of a lousy job. Wish you could reach the magots at the top or the regulators had real powers to deal with this. Will follow the above advice now though. Good article.

      Mark Brill responded:
      October 12, 2011 at 9:44 pm

      Thanks for the comment! You’re right that you’re not really getting to the right people by winding up their call centre guys. It’s fun to do though, and there is an argument to say that the more time you waste, the less worthwhile it becomes.
      I think the regulators have enough powers, the problem is that they have neither the resource nor the expertise to deal with it. I’m working closely with the operators to try and tackle the problem – it’s slow, but we’re making progress.

    Mark Brill responded:
    October 19, 2011 at 11:13 am

    That number is supposed to be live across all of the networks (apart from Vodafone who are 67726). Maybe contact the customer service team to find out?

    Danial Webb said:
    December 14, 2011 at 10:24 pm

    I’ve received about five texts this week. I replied positively to all of them. Four resulted in identifiable companies calling me. A fifth resulted in a withheld number calling me. This last company refused to give their name and tried to get me to agree I had filled in a contact request at some point.

    One of the legitimate companies, theugroup.co.uk, tell me their lead was generated by a company in Leeds called Monetize. Their contact is Andrew Cummine. Monetize claim they bought my number from another marketing company, Bazooka in Nottingham. So far, nobody is actually saying ‘we sent you that text’.

    Natalie said:
    January 23, 2012 at 11:04 am

    I have never had an accident or claimed anything in my life and the past two weeks I get about 10 texts or phone calls a day from various numbers about claiming for a recent accident. I even called one back and asked them if they could inform me of this ‘accident’ I have had. I asked them to remove my number and this week I’ve already had 3 missed calls from the same number and it is only Monday.
    What Can I do about these? I have already blocked the numbers from calling my phone (they are added to a reject list) and messages I have forwarded to my mobile service provider spam number.

      Mark Brill responded:
      January 24, 2012 at 7:28 pm

      I’m afraid there is little more you can do at this stage. We are trying to get the regulators to investigate and enforce spammers more effectively but until we get some progress there, I am not sure what you can do about it.

    Dan Wilson said:
    February 2, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    Unless i missed it, nowhere in the original post or the comments was there mention of replying with STOP . The example shown at the top of this clearly shows that they specified ‘To opt out text STOP’ . That is there BTW by law. whatever texting provider (gateway) they are using is following the law…..even if the sender is maybe not.

    if you text STOP the texting provider will not allow the holder of the sending account to send anymore texts to your number…period. That’s in my opinion the right way to handle this.

      Mark Brill responded:
      February 2, 2012 at 5:52 pm

      I think you miss the point of the post.

      I am advising against the STOP reply as it will do no good at all. The best advice is to ignore the sender and report it to your network.

      The spammers don’t care about legalities. The message shown conforms to one bit of the PECR, but they are breaking at least 6 other regulations. They are using the STOP to give the appearance of legitimacy. Texting back will make no differences.

      These spammers are using pre-paid SIM cards and do not go through SMS gateways (I have gone into details in later posts). Therefore providers cannot block the companies. They are using a variety of techniques to avoid identification. I am working with the operators and regulators to tackle the problem, but it is vastly complex and the solution is not as obvious as you seem to think.

    Username_anaon said:
    February 3, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    I get about 3-4 texts a day for accidents and loans, also when they ring I just say I have had an accident…. “when I was doing up my fly I caught the tip of my penis”. They don’t really like that

      Mark Brill responded:
      February 3, 2012 at 1:15 pm

      Whist replying to their messages may just mean you get more of them, if you are prepared to waste their time, then good for you! If everyone did that, I think they would stop sending them pretty quickly.

    Ben said:
    February 6, 2012 at 5:33 pm

    I had a call from someone I suspect of being one of these claims farmers. They not only had my number though, but also my postcode and accident date. Any thoughts?

      Mark Brill responded:
      February 6, 2012 at 5:37 pm

      The text messages tend to be highly speculative. With that amount of information and the fact that it was a phone call, then it would have been passed on by your insurers or someone connected to them. I would ask them how they got your details. If they are reputable they’ll tell you. The ICO are very interested in this kind of thing, so if your information has been compromised I would suggest contacting them.

    jan williams said:
    February 21, 2012 at 2:30 pm

    I txt one of these firms with the “stop” and see i have been charged 61p for it, i am on contract no pay as you go, so no charge should have shown up.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s