ICO Hunts Down Another Spam Texter

The watchdog has raided a ‘SIM farm’ in the midlands and issued a sizeable fine

The Information Commissioners Office (ICO) has taken hundreds of SIM cards used to send unsolicited text messages out of commission, after raiding a “SIM farm” in Wolverhampton.

The watchdog took action after spam messages were reported by concerned citizens using the free ‘7726’ number (which spells out SPAM on a numerical keypad). The number, launched in partnership with network operators, has been active since March.

“This shows why reporting messages to us and your mobile network operator is so crucial. Without the reports we got through the 7726 system, we wouldn’t have been able to carry out this raid today,” said Andy Curry, enforcement manager at the ICO.

The investigation continues.

The benefits of complaining

Thanks to the information provided using the ‘7726’ hotline, ICO obtained search warrants and raided the offices which contained equipment allegedly used to send more than 350,000 nuisance text messages, although the real number could be much higher.

Shelves of SpamICO seized new and used SIM cards, computer equipment and paperwork, and also searched a residential address.

“What we’ve seized today backs the intelligence we had that hundreds of thousands of nuisance messages were coming from this address. The rules on sending messages are clear, and if the evidence proves the law has been broken, we will issue a sizeable fine against those responsible,” said Curry.

Initiatives like this usually require operators to trace unregistered pay-as-you-go SIM cards using mobile base stations, and that’s why participation of every network operator is especially important. The operators and the ICO are currently looking at ways of extending the initiative to cover nuisance calls.

Earlier this week, ICO announced that it had fined a Yorkshire-based direct marketing company and its employer, a Devon PPI claims company, £140,000 for breaching electronic marketing rules.

These businesses made thousands of nuisance marketing calls, and prompted more than 1,200 complaints from UK residents.

But this fine pales in comparison with a £440,000 penalty which ICO handed down to the owners of Manchester-based Tetrus Telecoms in 2012, for sending “millions” of spam texts.

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