What is SMS trashing?
SMS trashing is a type of business SMS fraud. Unlike almost all SMS scams the target for this crime are the businesses and organisations that send A2P SMS, not the consumer.
The ‘bad agents’ with SMS trashing are unscrupulous SMS providers or SMS aggregators.
Rather than deliver all the text messages that a company submits to them for delivery, they siphon off a portion of the messages and do not submit them to the mobile networks (MNO) for delivery.
They charge the customer for all these undelivered messages and make a significant profit on all the messages that were never sent.
They will often create fake delivery reports so that the customer believes that all the messages have been delivered.
By restricting the proportion of trashed messages to about 10%, then they hope that the customer simply won’t notice.
What types of SMS traffic are targeted by SMS trashing?
Fraudsters normally target marketing type messages where it’s very difficult to prove if messages were delivered or not.
An example might be a text offer from a fast food or pizza restaurant. How would you tell if 10% of the messages from your restaurant hadn’t been sent.
If they targeted one time password texts then there would immediately be a large number of complaints from customers who couldn’t complete purchases or log into accounts.
How common is SMS trashing?
There are no official figures on how much SMS trashing is going on. It’s very hard to measure.
Dishonest aggregators can start by delivering all of the messages, to gain the trust of the company sending them.
Then, over time, they can reduce the proportion of messages sent, once the customer has become comfortable with the reliability of the SMS service.
SMS trashing is being combined with SMS pumping fraud
SMS pumping fraud is when fraudsters hijack web forms and apps that generate one time SMS passwords, typically sent to allow customers to register for an account or reset a password.
They generate large numbers of texts which can be diverted to a premium rated SMS route. The fraudsters then generate a revenue share on each text that is delivered,
By combining SMS trashing with SMS pump fraud, the scammers can generate a revenue from both fraud types.
“We see increased activity from fraudulent players, which now combine multiple mechanisms to hijack an even higher share of the revenues meant to reach MNOs.”
Teodor Magureanu (Chief of Staff – Vox Carrier
Who are the victims of SMS trashing fraud?
It’s not just the companies sending the messages that are being scammed. There are other victims that are impacted by it.
Companies sending messages – defrauded by paying for a service that they don’t receive.
Mobile Networks – They don’t receive the revenue for message delivery.
Consumers – They don’t receive the messages that were intended for them.
Will SMS trashing become a bigger problem than it is now?
There is a good chance that the SMS trashing situation will worsen in the coming months and years.
There has been a very sharp rise in business SMS costs which makes this type of fraud even more profitable for rogue aggregators.
UK research company Mobile Squared reported that since mid-2021 the average cost to send an A2P SMS internationally has almost doubled from $0.033 to $0.0646
This rise in prices will make the fraud more lucrative and in turn, is likely to become a bigger problem.
How can my company avoid SMS trashing?
Choose an SMS supplier with a strong reputation and with plenty of happy customers that you can talk to.
Reputable SMS providers and SMS aggregators will be more than happy to provide testimonials and the details of customers that you can speak with.
If you’re being offered a price for SMS that’s significantly lower than their competitors, it’s probably too good to be true.
Consider using multiple SMS providers so that you can compare the delivery rates of each. Suspiciously low response rates from messages sent through one of the providers might indicate that SMS trashing is in play.
SMS trashing looks like it’s on the rise. Organisations of all sizes need to be wary of SMS providers or aggregators that are offering terms that appear to be favourable.
Keep monitoring your SMS traffic and stop using any SMS companies that if see any suspicious signs that something is not quite right.