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SIM cards used for spam texts blocked by UK regulator

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Blackberry smartphone

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The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has blocked 20,000 mobile phone SIM cards that were being used to plague consumers with spam text messages.

The ICO enacted powers it was handed six months ago to combat the bane of spam texts, but admitted that the blocking action has merely scratched the surface of the problem, reports BBC Newsbeat.

Around eight million spam messages are sent in the UK every day, according to data from the Direct Marketing Association (DMA). The messages can make millions for the businesses and individuals involved.

Last December, a study by the ICO of 1,014 people found that messages offering accident compensation are the most common scam texts, followed by payment protection and debt settlement.

Almost 700 of those surveyed said that receiving a spam SMS had caused them concern, and 205 respondents described it as inconvenient, but 61 said that it had caused them damage or distress.

But some of the biggest problems come if the user responds to the messages. David Clancy, the investigation's manager at the ICO, explained: "Once the [spammers] have trapped your number they will then sell it into the [claims] industry.

"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. It makes a lot of money."

However, Clancy said that the ICO's new powers are having an impact, as the regulator is now able to execute search warrants on suspected spammers and levy fines of up to £500,000, as well as order mobile phone operators to hand over key information.

Last year, a house in the north of England was raided as part of the ICO's investigation, while visits have been made to "various" other addresses.

But he urged users that the best thing to do is never reply to spam messages.

"I've done it myself as part of this investigation," he said.

"I've been contacted by numerous organisations offering me payment protection insurance claims, dent management claims and accident claims - don't respond."

Users can also forward any spam messages they receive to their mobile operator, as most firms have a dedicated number for dealing with the menace.

> Criminals using fake social media profiles to target victims

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