Barry Eitel

Spam: the evil, annoying demon that springs up with every new technology.

Who hands over their credit card information in order to help dethroned Nigerian princes, buy wholesale Viagra or get naughty pictures? Obviously, someone must, because piles of spam still flood the world’s inboxes.

Once relegated to email in the halcyon days of the net, spammers have adapted to sending out text messages. You’ve probably received something on your phone over the years promising free piles of cash or Caribbean cruises. Hopefully you didn’t respond.

If the global telecommunications network is an ecosystem, than spammers are parasitic flies. Therefore, it’s always nice when a few are ensnared in the web of criminal justice.

Two English text message spammers were recently slapped with £440,000 in fines, about $700,000 in the United States.

Christopher Niebel and Gary McNeish sent out millions of text messages that gathered personal information on unsuspecting responders. Their company, Tetrus Telecoms, sold this information to unscrupulous claims management companies. The couple is charged with breaching the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations of 2003.

"The two individuals we have served penalties on today made a substantial profit from the sale of personal information,” Christopher Graham, Britain’s Information Commissioner, told the BBC, “They knew they were breaking the law and the trail of evidence uncovered by my office highlights the scale of their operations."

"The public have told us that they are distressed and annoyed by the constant bombardment of illegal texts and calls and we are currently cracking down on the companies responsible, using the full force of the law,” Graham continued.

Tetrus was sneaky, using as many as 70 sim cards a day to send out a daily 800,000 texts. Each sim card was linked to a computer and blasted out texts until the card’s limit was reached.

The texts baited people with injuries to reply back. Niebel and McNeish than sold responder’s personal information to claims management companies searching for compensation cases, which they would pass on to lawyers.

Records snagged by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) reveal the duo were raking in tens of thousands of pounds.

According to the ICO, spammers either shoot texts to random phone numbers or purchase black market lists online. If someone responds in any way to a text, their number is marked as “active” and pulls in a much heavier price.

The lessons? Spammers are the scum of the digital earth and never, ever respond to a spam text. Even if you have something really funny to say.