Mobile Carriers Crack Down on Spam Texting

As texting grows in health and human services there is a greater level of scrutiny on the manner in which texting platforms function.  Our clients have always taken comfort in knowing we developed our system specifically for the work they do.  PreventionPays Text uses Enterprise Short Code Technology, the gold standard in the texing industry.  In fact, short codes obtained through Neustar are the only method of texting used by HHS, CDC, HRSA, mHealth Alliance, and many others because of the rigorous provisioning process they must go through in order to operate on each mobile carrier gateway. Short codes support automated optin/out and must comply with all FCC anti-spamming rules and regulations which are closely monitored by CTIA and the mobile carriers.  During the provisioning process, message tracking capacity is initiated.

PreventionPays Text will be highlighted at APHA 2014 and the National WIC Association Technology conferences in the fall as "best practice" for two-way conversational texting and outgoing, group messaging for education and improved health outcomes. In addition to supporting text line services for hotlines/helplines, PreventionPays Text is now widely used by WIC agencies, 2-1-1 Contact Centers, Medicare agencies as well as numerous state and regional health departments, universities and research institutions. 

Carriers Have Banned A2P (Application to Person) Use of Long Codes

The Mobile carriers (AT&T, Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile) have banned Application to Person (A2P) use of Long Codes because the numbers are not provisioned to automate the opt-in/opt-out and are not registered with to provide services to people originating from applications.  Penalties range from carrier-wide blocking to severe fines, up to $1,000 per instance.  Additionally both the aggregator and the application providers (managing the A2P long code) may be named in a lawsuit.  Our aggregator mBlox (the largest sms aggregator in the world) does not offer long codes because "the risk is just too high. Financial institutions and health services recognize the risks and we want to make sure our focus is where those industries want to be... and that's short codes." (Mary D'Allesandro, Head of Account Management, mBlox)

Long numbers for A2P messaging is not supported by the carriers and they go to great lengths to detect it and block it as spam. That’s why you see all of these special “rules” that application providers use to try and avoid being detected and having their number shut off or their bind cancelled. The risk is generally not worth it, which is why we (mBlox) have decided not to offer longcodes.
— mBlox, Largest Aggregator, Worldwide

PreventionPays Text is the only service of its kind in the industry that is built according to HIPAA, CTIA and FCC security guidelines since 2006. New anti-spamming laws now regulate the SMS industry with severe penalties for operating outside the specified guidelines.

Short codes are the only numbers that automate the opt-in/opt-out and this is by design - they are provisioned to do so by the mobile carriers during setup. Before they can begin to send and receive messages they must first pass these tests completed by each carrier.

If you are unsure about the vendor or services you can ask the question, is you company registered with Compliance? If the answer is "no" then they are providing services using numbers that are out of compliance making them subject to the above mentioned penalties.

EMS is in frequent communication with the CTIA Compliance team to ensure our short codes are meeting mobile industry communication guidelines which include how the number functions as well as how the number is being presented on the Internet and in printed materials.

You can read about these guidelines by going here:  Common Short Code Best Practices

Key Facts:

  • Mobile carriers have banned the use of long codes for Application to Person (A2P) texting
  • Do not support fully automated opt-in/opt-out
  • Long codes are not able to support handset delivery receipts (zero message tracking)
  • Carrier-wide blocking that occurs at any time without warning
  • Throughput restrictions (8 messages per minute) If a long code exceeds 8 per minute it will be blocked by carriers without warning.
  • Unable to support end user privacy and are deemed non-compliant with FCC and CTIA
  • Recycled numbers, origin unknown
  • Operate Outside Industry Regulations

The FCC Anti-Spam Act states that it is the public's right to request texts and then cancel them at any time and this should occur in a fully-automated way.

Long codes are not provisioned to support end user privacy. If you text STOP to a long code, you won't get any message back.  In fact, you'll always wind up getting more spam messages than before because they now know there's a live person at the other end. And most often, the next time you're spammed, it will be from an entirely different long code. The companies that are leasing long codes are re-selling the phone numbers that interact with their long codes. The worst part is, it's entirely unbeknownst to their clients that are leasing the long codes and the owners of the mobile phones that interact with them.  So next time you get a text from your dentist and it's from a 10-digit number, DO NOT send a message back (unless you want to get spammed) and alert your dentist about long code spamming. He'll thank you for it.

It's also important to note that carrier blocking can occur on a long code before your program started using it. All digital numbers are recycled.  So, you have no way of knowing how it was used before you started using it.

We've all received unsolicited texts from numbers we don't recognize and they're always from 10 digit numbers. Spammers don't use short codes (5 or 6 digit numbers) because they are provisioned and operate in a regulated industry that protects end user privacy. These rules and end user privacy make short code texting a secure, safe and enduring environment.  

The entities that govern short code texting are: Mobile Carriers, CTIA, Common Short Code Administration

HHS provides texting recommendations to public health agencies. Every example they reference uses Short Code technology SEE:
Also check out King County Public Health at:
King County Public Health has published several papers on texting in public health. And they make recommendations about how to build a program.  None of their literature mentions using long codes. It's always about short codes because they're secure and protect end user privacy. 

Big News! PreventionPays Text will be highlighted at AIRS 2015 during the 2-1-1 General Assembly! Whether you're a 2-1-1 or other I&R, there will be something for everyone! 


PreventionPays Text Strictly Adheres to FCC and CTIA Anti-Spamming Rules and Regulations

PreventionPays Text Strictly Adheres to FCC and CTIA Anti-Spamming Rules and Regulations

2-1-1 Contact Centers and Enterprise Short Code Texting

It is an irrefutable fact that 2-1-1 has become an essential service. The calling for 211 ACT (which would enable 2-1-1 to receive government funding) is a crucial next step toward long-term sustainability. It is incumbent upon 2-1-1 Contact Centers to make themselves more relevant and valuable to the communities they serve, particularly as communication needs evolve.

Americans under 55 are now texting more than they make voice calls.  Gen-Y has come to expect social services be available through multiple channels. According to a recent article in Mashable, Millennials own an average of 2.5 web-enabled devices and chances are, they are texting on all of them. For reaching individuals, regional groups and specific priority groups, there is nothing more effective than text.

When phones are down, or over-burdened, text is the only communication channel that survives during disasters. The very elements that comprise a text are, by nature, resilient. In fact, SMS was first developed to help the Armed Services communicate in a safer, more secure manner in war-torn regions where communication infrastructure is compromised. During moments when every second counts, mobile phones are helping keep us all safer. Text based alerts offer the quickest, most efficient method for getting short bursts of information to entire communities in seconds.

2-1-1 has expanded into nearly every community in the US making the 211 network ideally suited for text message based alerts and resource provisioning. In the US, the use of SMS during times of catastrophe or natural disaster has proven to have an incredible impact. “Phone lines, fax, and electricity could fail and the only tool you can use is your cell phone ,” said Safe America Foundation Spokesperson, Carla Shaw. For example, during and immediately after Hurricane Katrina pummeled the Gulf Coast of the United States, SMS was the only mechanism available for much of the country to contact those in the affected areas, due to the small amount of data that is required to send a text message. SMS messages are inexpensive and easy-to-use and in recent years the mobile phones that are needed for sending and receiving them have become ubiquitous. Homeland Security published an article in 2010, “The Unprecedented Role of SMS in Disaster Response,” where they pose the question, “what if we could communicate with disaster-affected communities in real-time just days after a major disaster like the quake in Haiti?”

With 898211, the 2-1-1 network has that capacity now.  2-1-1 contact centers are uniquely positioned and skilled to provide this level of service to the communities they serve. What would 2-1-1 Based Text Alerts mean to government agencies like Homeland Security and CDC? Is the case for passing the 2-1-1 ACT strengthened with 2-1-1's capacity and reach to provide first alerts to disaster affected regions? Enterprise short code texting through 898211 offers an ideal opportunity for Homeland Security and other first alert programs to collaborate with 2-1-1 in an effort to maximize resources and utilize infrastructure that's currently available and being deployed at state and national levels.

2-1-1 contact centers already using 898211™ (Enterprise short code texting through PreventionPays Text) are revolutionizing how referrals are administered. Individuals in their communities are a text away from housing, food banks, childcare, elderly care, or any other social services that help them connect with resources. They are also setting new standards for emergency and disaster alerts, disseminating crucial, time sensitive information with pinpoint accuracy.

This capacity is currently available through 898211™ services!

In areas currently using 898211™, individuals simply text their zip code to 898211 to get immediate help with resources. 898211™ platform increases reach to many of the most disadvantaged and difficult to reach groups e.g. youth, hearing/speech impaired, homeless, and the millions of unemployed and/or temporarily displaced Americans.  898211™ increases operator efficiencies, while decreasing missed calls.  898211™ supports fully-automated follow-up triages so that 2-1-1 can collect data required by their funders without having to expend precious staff time on time-consuming followup calls. I&R Specialists should be doing what they do best – linking individuals to resources.

Key facts about 898211™

The Short code 898211™ is provisioned with every mobile carrier in the US

Carriers have provisioned 898211™ on their gateways to function in two very specific ways - 211 I&R and 211 Disaster/Health & Safety Alerts

Over 89 Million US households no longer own a land line

Americans under 55 text more than they make voice calls and email.

Not all mobile phones are able to call 2-1-1, but every mobile phone can send a text to 898211™

898211™ is ideal for post disaster alerts, getting people connected with resources when it matters the most

For more information about the 898211™ Platform, please text MYTEXT to 898211 (Standard msg&data rates may apply. Text STOP to opt out). Or call 805-653-6000.

Or visit us at PreventionPaysText

PreventionPays Text is Subject of Published Research: Increase Youth Help-Seeking Through a Text-Based Crisis Line for Youth

A multi-method evaluation was conducted to assess the TextToday pilot program (aka PreventionPaysText) the nation’s first crisis line with the capacity to accept text messages.  The program is 24/7 and available to anyone with a mobile phone equipped with a texting plan. Objectives of the evaluation included how successful the system was in meeting the needs of underserved youth and how effectively the social marketing campaign reached the target population with information about the texting crisis service. The service was found to increase youth help-seeking behaviors among our pilot study population. Implications for replication, integrating texting into community crisis services, and future research are discussed.

Evaluation findings from the TextToday (PreventionPays Text) program reveal that this text-based crisis line has increased help-seeking behaviors of adolescents and young adults. Although 172 individuals texted into the system during this pilot study, by the spring of 2012 over 300 youth per month were accessing the system for support, representing a sharp monthly increase in youth contacts to the Center over the previous 5-year period. More than half of all texts into the system during the pilot were by “repeat texters,” those who texted in more than one time, with some youth texting in as many as nine times within a 2–3-month period. In schools in which administrative support for the program was particularly high, between 6.3%-12.3% of the student body later texted into the program.

Focus groups with Crisis Line counselors and data on texters suggest that many youth text the system when they are bored, just want to talk, or to discuss an issue they do not feel comfortable discussing with parents, friends, or other support networks. In fact, interpersonal conflicts, and particularly those with romantic partners emerged as the primary issue youth wanted to discuss with counselors. This coheres with research suggesting that interpersonal conflicts are the single greatest stressors reported by youth (Seiffge-Krenke, Aunola, & Nurmi, 2009). Adolescents in romantic relationships tend to report more conflict than those without romantic partners (Laursen, 1995) and manifest more symptoms of depression (Joyner & Udry, 2000). That said, 29 acute crisis texts were received during the pilot and were successfully de-escalated from a suicidal state. Further,

counselors successfully initiated follow up text conversations with many suicidal texters, suggesting that a text-based platform is effective for both crisis and noncrisis texters. Overall, students who participated in focus groups about the text messaging system believed that a text-based crisis line offered many advantages over other resources available to them. Students expressed concern that counselors, teachers, and other school-based resources would discuss issues students brought to them amongst each other and even with other students. Further, although many youth felt they could discuss their problems
with their parents or friends, many others did not feel comfortable talking to their parents about issues, particularly when the topic was sensitive, might cause their parents to involve school officials or other parents, or might get them in trouble. Thus, most students perceived the TextToday system as more confidential, more convenient, and more accessible than other resources available to them. Although some youth expressed concerns that Crisis counselors could “track” their phone numbers and involve their parents or school officials, the majority of youth believed that the line was confidential, and would recommend the service to a friend in crisis.

As texting is increasingly adopted across all age groups and research accumulates about the potential benefits this technology has to increase users’ disclosure, reach previously underserved populations, and improve crisis services overall, texting platforms have the potential to emerge as a central component of community crisis services.

Link to full article published in the Journal of Community Psychology