This past weekend, the office of the New York State Attorney General announced a settlement with Game Theory LLC, a mobile content company. Game Theory agreed to pay a $500,000 settlement for allegedly sending deceptive text messages that tricked New York State residents into signing up for monthly text messages costing $9.99 per month:
"These charges appeared on the victim’s wireless telephone bill in a way that was difficult to detect. For months, consumers would pay for text messages they did not want before they realized they were being charged. For example, between May 23, 2011 and July 5, 2011, Game Theory sent text messages claiming that the recipients had a “secret crush,” and that the recipient needed to respond “yes” to find out who it was. However, in the process of finding out the identity of the “secret crush,” the recipient was also unknowingly signing-up for a text message service..."
Game Theory reportedly sent 150,000 such text messages to the mobile phones of New York State residents. Terms of the settlement require the company to exit the text messaging business.
Security experts advise consumers to never respond to unsolicited text messages, including those that claim a reply is necessary to stop any charges. Consumers should report text message spam and fraudulent mobile phone charges to their mobile service provider, and ask their provider to block those third-party charges. Consumers can also report this fraud to their state consumer protection agency, and to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
It is important for parents to remind and teach their children of good mobile device security habits, including how to recognize and delete smishing text messages.