The SMS Marketing Blog

[ By Ez Texting ]

Defend Yourself from the Attack of the Android Worm

Depositphotos_6573767_xs
 

Android users are facing a new threat in the shape of a worm, ominously named ‘Selfmite.b’. As with most worms, the majority of users will be unaware of the threat, which sends text messages to every contact in a user’s list. Selfmite.b gets into others’ phones via the innocent-looking SMS which appears to be from a friend or other trusted person. Once a user has been tricked into clicking the bogus links contained in the text message, malicious software is installed on their device.

This pernicious virus takes its name from Selfmite, the SMS worm that attacked smartphones earlier this year. But while that worm sent links to the first 20 contacts in an address book, Selfmite.b sends them to every single contact. Not only that, it does this on a loop, meaning victims continue to receive malicious texts until they are blocked.

According to data from AdaptiveMobile, the worm had sent over 150k messages during the first ten days of October. Victims span the globe, with infected phones identified in Canada, China, Costa Rica, Ghana, India, Iraq, Jamaica, Mexico, Morocco, Puerto Rico, Russia, Sudan, Syria, USA, Venezuela and Vietnam. That’s a hundred times more traffic than the first Selfmite generated. Exacerbating the problem is the fact that the people behind the worm can change it remotely using a configuration file. This makes it much harder to stop the infection process.

As inconvenient and embarrassing as having your entire contact list spammed is, the worst upshot for victims is financial. Selfmite.b can generate huge phone bills, and victims even risk having their number blocked as though they were the perpetrators. The worm can even sign users up to expensige online subscriptions.

You can protect yourself. Selfmite.b requires you to manually click a link and manually install the APK file. If in doubt about any such file, don’t install it. Because of the generic nature of the messages containing the links, it shouldn’t be too hard to spot the scam. It will use one of the following texts, or something similar:

Hi buddy, try this, its amazing u know.http://x.co/5****

Hey, try it, its very fine.http://x.co/5****

Unless your friends are in the habit of sending you weird links, alarm bells should already be ringing. The poor syntax is a dead giveaway. And if nobody calls you ‘buddy’ then you’re probably on to Selfmite.b immediately.

The key is to avoid falling into the trap of absent-mindedly clicking links. Always read messages carefully, and if you have any doubts, give your friend a quick call to see if they sent you a text. They will thank you for alerting them to the fact they are being targeted. If your phone has already contracted Selfmite.b, a good anti-virus program will get rid of it.

Want a Personal Shopper? You Probably Already Have One

Depositphotos_23375292_xs
 

Always dreamed of having a personal shopper? You probably already have one...in the palm of your hand.

A new survey by Perception Research Services International, a company that specializes in shopper

research, found 76% of smartphone owners use their devices for shopping purposes.

The survey notes “53% of smartphone owners rely on their devices to compare prices, 49%

to read customer reviews, 48% to search for product information, 48% to check for sales or

coupons, 37% to get product information from a manufacturer’s site, 34% to get a friend or

family member’s opinion, 31% to make a purchase, 31% to enter a contest, and 17% to view

a product demonstration.” Out of the 1,450 American adults surveyed, over half owned a

smartphone.

 

Consumers use their smartphones when shopping for a range of products, including electronics,

clothing, computers/software, groceries, cosmetics, furniture and appliances, cosmetics and

personal care products, office supplies, home decor, and pet supplies among other items. QR

codes are among the most popular mobile commerce options, with consumers using codes to

learn more about products and promotions, participate in loyalty programs and receive rewards,

read customer reviews, and obtain store addresses.

 

“Retailers and manufacturers need to adapt to a world in which shoppers are armed with a

tremendous amount of information at their fingertips—about the brand to choose, the price

to pay and the place to buy,” notes Jonathan Asher, executive vice president at Perception

Research Services International. “Retailers know they will continue to lose a certain amount of

sales to online purchases, and they must accept that some showrooming will occur. The key is

to find ways to capitalize on those opportunities in which shoppers are in their store examining

products, and make it compelling for them to make purchases there rather than go online—or to

some other retailer—to do so.”

 

Marketers are therefore encouraging shoppers to buy new products or services based on

previous purchases and shopping patterns. Companies such as shopkick and Paypal are

utilizing Bluetooth-enabled beacons to link consumer in-store data to mobile marketing. Taking

advantage of location-based technologies and tracking buyer history has subsequently made

recommending products and services to consumers easy and efficient. Even third-party

manufacturers can benefit.

 

Beacon hardware manufacturer Roximity is developing marketing technology that leverages

beacons. For instance, a supermarket using Roximity’s technology could allow a third-party

brand, such as Dole, to utilize its beacon network for a particular promotion.

Startup companies are quickly getting on board with location-based technology, using mobile

not only to help consumers find their businesses, but to add understand what products

customers like and how to incentivize greater purchases.

Send a Spooky SMS for Halloween

Depositphotos_41103371_xs
 

As the Halloween marketing machine moves into fifth gear, the usual glut of ghostly products and services have hit consumers like a ton of pumpkins. This year, everyone’s talking about paranormal text messages.

SMS is the perfect medium for mediums. But while this very modern iteration of the spine-chilling prank is new, it has its roots in much older technology. Spooky calls from the dead have been cited as proof of an afterlife since the advent of the telephone.

The first phantom caller was reported in 1886, a mere decade after Alexander Graham Bell invented the phone. In 1915, an S.O.S. was apparently received by a Norwegian ship. The troubled vessel? It was, the story goes, the Titanic – which famously sank three years earlier. The incident was the first ghostly Morse code – but it was far from the last. 

In the 80s, fax machines got in on the act, with supernatural warnings blipping and honking their way into offices and homes – usually around this time of year. Everyone with an email account has received some kind of ‘pass this on or terrible deed x will befall you and your family’ message. No doubt there have been tweets purporting to be from the Other Side. Wherever there’s a new technology, the dead are using it to reach out to their loved ones.

Whether or not you believe these fanciful tales, sending a spooky text message around Halloween is tremendous fun. If you’re looking for ideas, there are plenty of scary suggestions online. Many of them suggest that the long-dead are remarkably tuned in to youth slang. Even better, with this app you can send screams along with your message to heighten the atmosphere of dread.

If creeping your friends out isn’t really your scene, but you still want to get into the Halloween spirit, there is a veritable encyclopedia of poems and epitaphs out there, all relating in some way to the scary season. For a classier Halloween text message, throw out some lines from Shakespeare’s doom-laden Macbeth – ‘The Witches Spell’ is the obvious choice here. Or there’s John Donne’s 17th Century classic, ‘The Apparition’ – perfect for summoning that Halloween spirit. For Scots, what better than the Robert Burns epic, simply titled ‘Halloween’?

Integrity of Whisper App Questioned

Depositphotos_53931981_xs
 

The firm behind social media app Whisper is tracking the location of its users – despite claiming to be ‘the safest place on the internet’ in terms of anonymity. The company is also sharing information from phones known to be used in military bases with the US Department of Defense, according to a recent Guardian expose.

Whisper users currently publish around two-and-a-half million messages a day. Their principal selling point is anonymity, but the Guardian report alleges the company has developed an in-house mapping tool allowing them to locate users to within 500 meters. The British newspaper also claims Whisper has been handing user locations to the Department of Defense. 

According to the Guardian, Whisper has been storing data since their 2012 launch. At that time, much of their brand image was predicated on a policy of holding data only for ‘a brief period of time’ and allowing those who don’t wish to be tracked to opt out of geo-location.

But the Guardian claims Whisper has been storing data even on users who specifically opted out. The news will be particularly alarming to military personnel who have used the platform to unburden themselves of traumatic events witnessed or experienced in the line of duty. Many soldiers use the app to share suicidal feelings and symptoms of PTSD and to discuss other topics they wouldn’t feel comfortable talking about on social media outlets like Facebook. 

The Guardian says Whisper has shared user data with law enforcement agencies, the FBI and MI5, a practice Whisper contends is standard in the tech industry – and only in situations where there is evidence of criminal behavior or imminent suicide.

Whisper has denied the allegations, saying it ‘does not follow or track users’ and dismissing the suggestion they were monitoring people without consent as ‘false’. CEO Michael Heyward issued a ten point riposte to the Guardian and suspended his editor-in-chief when the allegations came to light. He insists Whisper is only sharing information with the DoD when there is an investigation into frequent mentions of self-harm, adding “[We] are proudly working with many organizations to lower suicide rates.”

Heyward has been summoned to appear before the Senate Commerce Committee to answer questions about the app’s privacy policy.

Whisper has experienced rapid growth over the past two years and is now valued at more than $200m. The app tapped into a growing demand for private, confessional platforms which purport to foster more candid public discussions about sensitive issues like suicide.

Whisper has updated it’s terms and conditions since the story broke. 

Why is the Hospitality Industry so Slow to Embrace Mobile?

Depositphotos_12888921_xs
 

New research from Omnico indicates that UK consumers are less likely to use mobile devices to engage with hospitality service providers when compared with other industries. Just 13% of consumers said they would use mobile to interact with hoteliers and travel agents.

This reticence is understandable when examined from the consumer point of view. People ultimately want a better user experience, but with so many metrics to consider when booking a holiday, it’s possible that small screen devices are given short shrift. Filling in multiple fields – car rental, flights, hotels etc – is a hassle even on a desktop. Even on a mobile-optimized site or app, there’s simply too much information to divest for a quality user experience.

Thankfully for the industry, the point of purchase is just one step in the process. There is still plenty of scope to create a compelling mobile marketing campaign that simply hands off to desktop at the point of sale.

And despite the apparently-negative data collated in the UK, mobile usage has been steadily increasing in the world of hospitality. A Forrester survey from last year identified a 450% increase in mobile bookings since 2009. Some analysts predict mobile sales will be worth $26 billion by the year’s end. That’s one in five online travel dollars!

The biggest mobile marketing strides have been made post-purchase, with 75% of travelers using a mobile device to shop and book activities while on holiday, according to Forrester. Clearly, this is where the hospitality industry is benefitting most: reaching consumers who are already on vacation and for whom smartphones and tablets are the only readily-available web-connected device.

If you’re trying to create a mobile marketing campaign that works, focus on enriching the entire experience, not just selling vacations. Offer portals for booking restaurants. Provide information on local tourist sites. Gather user reviews that could help future customers. Break your mobile marketing strategy down into three key practices:

  • Promotion. Offer last minute deals, hotel discounts or coupons. Mobile – and especially SMS messaging - is perfect for issuing time-sensitive information.
  • Loyalty Rewards. Offer loyalty points with personalized incentives attached. Track data to give reward customers with the things they like. If they’re clocking up thousands of miles, offer air miles. If they use the same hotel chain around the world, try to partner with that hotel to offer discounts.
  • User Experience. Keep customers up to date on new destinations. Send weather forecasts, or travel directions. Stay engaged throughout their trip and solicit feedback in the form of reviews.

A balanced mobile marketing strategy is of vital importance in an aggressively competitive industry. The beauty of mobile is the ease with which you can subdivide customers according to personal preference, so even if your primary booking platform is your desktop website, stay plugged in to mobile and you’ll reap the long term benefits.

Smalltown America: The Tech Industry’s New Home?

 

Depositphotos_54390433_xs

The internet revolution has worked wonders for entrepreneurs with big ideas and small wallets. And while the tech giants are still keen to project a certain cache by basing themselves in huge economic centers like Tokyo and California, start ups are finding fewer financial impediments to realizing their dreams in less illustrious surroundings.

One of the tech industry’s new suburban outposts lies to the far west of Chicago, in and around the Fox Valley. Towns like Naperville, Aurora and Elgin are fostering the new bright young things of software development, web marketing and business.

These places have a centralized support network designed specifically for tech workers, mimicking the ‘all in it together’ mentality of their Silicon Valley counterparts.

If the spirit of technological collaboration is alive and well in Illinois, it’s positively thriving in Colorado. The state’s tech industry employed 162,600 people in 2012 (according to a TechAmerica Foundation report). That’s 8.7% of the private sector workforce, making Colorado the third biggest contributor to the national tech economy. In 2012, Colorado’s tech payroll amounted to $15.8 billion.

Tech wages are 98% higher than the average private sector wage, and the industry is the 7th-best paid in the United States. This skilled workforce is generating solutions to everything from the energy deficit to space travel. The further out of the big industrial centers tech companies base themselves, the lower the overheads - and the higher the potential wages. No wonder talented tech workers are eschewing the glamor of Silicon Valley in favor of better paid jobs in surroundings that are perhaps less illustrious - but also less cut-throat.

This tech diaspora has been facilitated in part by SEO campaigns that are increasingly targeting niche markets for highly specialized - and regionalized - products and services. Most tech companies are no longer aiming for world domination; they simply want to maximise their ROI by advertising only to those people with a high likelihood of purchasing their product.

Industry analysts are convinced that towns like Naperville have the capacity to become key tech hubs. Tech workers are starting to see the benefits of working in smaller towns, where they can commute quickly to and from work - without sacrificing their resume or salary. And why not? After all, their products and services are opening up a global village in which everybody can be a major player, irrespective of geographical location. To sell this new reality without believing in it is a contradiction too big for the bright young things of tomorrow’s technology industry.

 

Five Telltale Signs of a Text Scam

Depositphotos_54357363_xs
 

Email and snail mail scammers have added a new, very personal communication medium to their fraud arsenal: SMS. Text messaging scams are unfortunately becoming more commonplace, and as such it’s important to know what the indicators of such scams are. Check out five surefire signs of a text scam and know what to look out for should you receive strange messages: 

 

1) 11-Digit Numbers

Text messages from legitimate businesses are actually sent from the company’s number and do not come from unidentified mobile numbers. This is true even if the text body includes the name of the company, so don’t be fooled if a strange number claims to be a particular company.

 

2) “Winning” Raffle Prizes

Plenty of text scams begin by saying the user has “won” a raffle and includes steps on how to claim the supposed prize. Designed to trick users into handing over money or load credits in exchange for the prize, these fake winnings certainly spell scam. Remember that unless you entered into a specific contest, there’s no real prize at the end of the text message tunnel. Never, ever offer bank or similar information to “raffles” you did not enter.

 

3) “Share-A-Load”

Another way text scams extort user money or load credits is via “Share-A-Load” transactions. This scam accuses the subscriber of racking up additional charges. It gives the victim a message format to send to a mobile number for a “refund.” The message often looks as follows: [Company Name] LTE Advisory: Your postpaid account has been charged P500 for LTE use. Is this a wrong charge? Text 500 send to 2936XXXXXXX for REFUND.” Additionally, adding the ‘2’ in front of the 10-digit cell number turns the message into a “Share-A-Load” transaction.

 

4) Problems With Relatives 

Text messages claiming trouble with relatives who live abroad is one of the most common text messaging scams in existence. The “relative” has an issue while living or traveling abroad and requests monetary assistance through load credits or money transfer services using a “new” prepaid number. This new number is another way to trick users into Share-A-Load transactions.

 

5) Government “Messages”

Government agencies do not, repeat, DO NOT perform transactions through text messages. Any text message claiming to be from any government agency is a definite scam, including those that note raffle prize wins. The “agency” may not even exist.

Instead of responding to text message scams, inform your service provider of suspicious activity. Report all mobile numbers used, and never provide bank information or send money. The more informed you are, the better off you’ll be should you encounter a text message scam. 

Baltimore Maps Addiction with Text Messaging

SMS Messaging has had a major impact on healthcare processes. Everything from appointment reminders to internal communications in hospitals are being achieved more effectively than ever, and it’s all down to the humble text message.

Depositphotos_9082244_xs

In recent years, one of the most powerful applications of this technology has taken place in Baltimore, where it’s being used to help addicts in recovery. A National Institutes of Health lab located in East Baltimore provides methadone and testing to the addicts who attend. Unlike many other rehab programs, addicts don’t get thrown out if they relapse. Why? Because the data they can provide is far too valuable to researchers investigating the causes of relapses.

This data is being gathered via smartphones specifically programmed to help struggling drug users track their cravings and relapse episodes. The phones beep randomly throughout the course of the day with a text message asking questions like: Where are you? How are you feeling? What are you doing? Who are you with?

The scheme aims to identify the events and situations surrounding relapses. What are the events, places and people that trigger drug use? What happens in the precise moment an addict decides to use? 

In addition to cell phones, addicts carry GPS loggers to track their movements. Researchers can see the whereabouts of participants, identifying particular blocks or parts of town that precipitate a relapse. Knowing the location of an addict when they use – or think about reusing – is helping the team better understand the patterns of behavior that lead to a relapse.

The scheme is not the first SMS-based solution to treating addiction. Problem drinkers have been helped by a text message program that monitors their alcohol intake. Participants took weekly surveys and, depending on their responses, received automated text messages containing words of encouragement or recommendations for limiting alcohol consumption. The results showed that, on average, heavy drinkers can cut their intake by up to half by using such a scheme.

The nature of the platform is well-suited to self-monitoring and the setting of short term goals. People generally carry their phones everywhere, making them the perfect tool for reminding people to stay aware of unhealthy behaviors. Even just being told to ‘hang in there’ can work wonders for problem drinkers who are trying to keep on top of their alcohol intake. Mobile technology gives addicts a pocket clinician-cum-counselor that won’t let them down.