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Manchester biz raided in text message spam clampdown

Suspected ambulance-chasers 'sent thousands of txts'

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A clampdown on text spam has led to a police raid on offices in Urmston, Manchester, and the seizure of equipment by the Information Commissioner's Office.

The UK data privacy watchdog was given enhanced powers last year to tackle the growing problem of junk SMS messages, including the authority to ask mobile operators for information and numbers. The ICO was also allowed to obtain warrants to search premises.

The latest use of these powers targeted an unnamed firm touting an ambulance-chasing injury claims service. The watchdog, which is poring over evidence collected from the raided biz, said in a statement:

As part of the ICO’s ongoing investigations aimed at tackling the scourge of unwanted spam texts linked to the Claims Management Industry and the companies profiting from this unlawful activity, the ICO executed a search warrant on a premises situated in the Urmston area of Manchester on Tuesday 28 February.

The property was believed to be connected to individuals associated with a company that is suspected of sending out thousands of unsolicited electronic marketing messages.

We will take action where it is clear that individuals or companies are profiteering from unlawful activity. This includes issuing a monetary penalty of up to £500,000 to the worst offenders.

David Clancy, an investigation's manager at the ICO, explained the business model behind the mobile phone spam texts to the BBC.

"Once they [spammers] have trapped your number they will then sell it into the [claims] industry," he said. "First users will pay £1, £1.50 for that phone number. A month later it will be distributed to lots of organisations for 50p, 20p, 10p a time."

A previous raid last December led to the deactivation of 20,000 SIM cards. An ICO spokeswoman said the cards "had been used to send spam text messages".

Spam texts are usually sent using unregistered pay-as-you-go SIM cards. Under regulations introduced last year mobile operators are obliged to assist the ICO in pinpointing the locations from which clusters of junk messages have been sent. This cleared the way for the ICO to obtain a search warrant, authorising a raid by ICO investigators and local police.

The ICO advises punters to avoid responding to spam text messages. ®

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