Commercial real estate professionals love their smartphones…and so, apparently, do spammers. “The convergence of unlimited messaging plans, enhanced capabilities on mobile devices and the lack of messaging security at many carriers create a perfect opportunity for mobile spammers,” said Jamie de Guerre, chief technology officer at Cloudmark, a company that markets SMS security to wireless carriers.
A recent Nielsen Mobile report estimates the typical US mobile subscriber sends and receives more SMS text messages than phone calls. In the second quarter of 2008,for instance, the report said there was a 450 percent increase in text messages over the same period in 2006.
As the number of text and multimedia messages grow, so do complaints about spam. And while unsolicited mobile messages may seem like nothing more than an annoyance, experts warn that the practice is often the prelude to fraud. “The viruses and malicious spyware that are often attached to traditional spam will most likely be more prevalent on wireless devices through m-spam. This significant and looming threat must be addressed in order to protect consumers and vital wireless services,” Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) said recently.
Just last week, Snowe and fellow Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) introduced the m-SPAM Act, legislation that would strictly prohibit commercial text messages to wireless numbers listed on the National Do Not Call registry. The bill would also give the Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission more authority to regulate unwanted text messages.
Mobile spam can be especially problematic for any real estate professional. It can be a challenge, agents and brokers concur, to weed out spam from prospects. But the m-SPAM Act could also create issues: Some wonder if there is any risk that CRE pros could be unfairly charged as spammers for texting current or past clients.
At least for now, the proposed m-SPAM Act contains an exemption for prior existing business relationships, which means agents or brokers will be free to continue texting clients. But the National Association of Realtors plans to monitor the legislation and, officials say, “work with Congress to ensure that there is no adverse business impact for our members.”