Study: More spam served up to cell phones

The amount of unsolicited messages sent to mobile handsets is growing, with two-thirds of European users receiving unwanted texts, according to a new report.

The problem of unsolicited "spam" e-mail messages is spreading to mobile phones and getting worse, according to a British report released Wednesday.

London-based technology company Empower Interactive said that 65 percent of Europe's cell phone users report receiving up to five unsolicited text messages a week on their handsets.

"We are certainly going to see a significant acceleration in the coming years," said Richard Shearer, CEO of Empower Interactive.

While most consumers have learned to live with e-mail spam, their threshold of acceptance is much lower with unwanted texts.

In the United Kingdom last year, the Independent Committee for the Supervision of Standards of Telephone Information Services (ICSTIS)--the primary complaints body for mobile spam--reported receiving over 10,000 complaints about mobile spam.

The growing nuisance will be painful for both mobile phone operators and their customers. It costs the operator as much as five euros ($6.37) each time a consumer rings customer services to make a complaint, Shearer estimated.

Consumers who sign up for special mobile services such as musical ring tones or news flashes are more susceptible to being spammed, as their phone details are stored in a database with the content provider, Shearer said.

In some cases, an unsolicited mobile message can be quite tame, coming in the form of a promotion for a new service or a renewal notice from a content provider.

But more nefarious spammers exist who mine mobile phone numbers and send out message blasts to scores of customers at one time.

Cash-strapped cell phone operators are investing larger and larger sums in network security features to limit the flow of spam and potential viruses. Viruses have yet to surface on mobiles in a meaningful way, experts say.

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