SMS News

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November 12, 2015

New ATM Concept Brings Mobile to the Fore



Will that be cash or credit? These days most of us use plastic to pay for just about everything—from groceries and clothing to digital music and parking meters. But this hasn’t stopped Diebold Inc. from introducing a new line of ATMs aimed at providing future consumers with a unique mobile banking experience. 

In late October, Diebold unveiled two new ATM concepts at the Money 20/20 tradeshow in Las Vegas. The Irving and Janus models are the latest series to exclude common components of traditional ATM design and functionality. Most notably, both designs feature cardless transaction capabilities and mobile integration, which according to Diebold, will create a smoother and more convenient experience. 


New Features

Unlike traditional ATMs, the Irving is a sleek, screen-less, and pad-less terminal. Near Field Communication (NFC) activates the ATM when a user approaches the device.  NFC syncs with a user’s smartphone, thus eliminating the need for various material interfaces. To access funds, users verify their identities using contact-less technologies like QR codes or iris-scan and then withdraw cash. The Irving is also 32 percent smaller than traditional ATMs.

While the Irving delivers on speed and convenience, the Janus offers customer service in an entirely new format. The Janus is a dual-sided terminal, sharing basic components like alarm boards and connectivity, but can individually service two users at once from each side without compromising security or privacy. 

The Janus also incorporates mobile access features like NFC and QR code technology but also offers a tablet touch screen, which allows users to scan checks and sign documents. Additionally, if a user needs assistance, the Janus offers a 24-hour video teller for more complex problems. 


But Are They Safe? 

Mobilizing the ATM experience is a likely evolution. As consumers become increasingly familiar with mobile integration and applications, especially with the proliferation of banking apps, the need for brick-and-mortar bank locations decreases. But are these new cardless ATMs safe for consumers? 

Diebold’s ATM concepts reassure users with safety features covering several types of threats. First, the new machines remove nearly every skimming threat, because users would not have to slide a card or type a PIN. Second, the QR codes and other scanning technologies don’t contain any sensitive data about the user; they simply notify the smartphone of the connection. Connections are also set to expire after a short length of time, so even if the phone were lost or stolen, accessing the account would be impossible without proper user identification. And finally, the increased speed of the transaction greatly shortens the amount of time a person spends at the terminal.

Like all mobilized tasks, the use of mobile integrated ATMs will probably take some getting used to. In the future, it probably won’t be the end of the world if you forget your wallet at home, provided that you have your cell phone.



Jeremy Pollack has a B.A. in English from USC and has been writing professionally since 2001. He is the founder and editorial manager of Compelling Content Solutions, A copy writing and content marketing services company.


November 06, 2015

Roaming Charges Have Been Scrapped in Europe


The extra costs associated with using a mobile phone in European countries other than the one you live in are to be scrapped. The ban on data roaming charged, agreed by MEPs in June after years of negotiations, has been passed into law, and will take effect from 15 June 2017.

Roaming charges are currently added to phone bills when users browse the web, make calls or send text messages while abroad. Once the ban kicks in, tourists traveling within the EU won’t notice any difference between the cost of mobile connectivity at home and abroad. The move was described by former vice-president of the European Commission Viviane Reding as “a victory for consumers.”

It’s been a long road for anti-roaming campaigners, as EU member states voiced concern about the potential financial impact on their domestic telecoms providers. A proposal for a roaming ban to take effect this year was scrapped after negotiations stalled. 

The overall ban will be preceded by a ‘phasing out’ process to lessen the burden on operators and allow time for the infrastructure to adjust.  

As things stand, operators can charge tourists up to 22 cents (around 14 pence) per minute for outgoing calls, five cents for incoming calls, six cents per text message and 20 cents per megabyte of data. That’s in addition to their regular tariff. As of April 2016, the costs will be reduced to five cents per minute, two cents per text message and five cents per megabyte.

The impending ban has been welcomed by consumers and campaigners, especially advocates of net neutrality, who broadly oppose unregulated tariff-setting for electronic communications. Under the new telecommunications law, operators will be required to treat all web traffic equally. For net neutrality advocates, the ban on roaming charges is another victory in the fight to keep the lines of digital exchange as open and free to the widest number of people possible.


October 20, 2015

Be Wary of the Latest Text Message Bank Fraud Scam


Internet scams make the news fairly regularly, spurring conversations about prevention with advice from experts as well as victims. While most of us know not to provide personal information via email, or when asked to do so by a pop-up window, few practice the same caution with regards to their smartphones. 

The latest scam involving identity theft is presenting itself to mobile users via text messages. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) recently got involved after several complaints surfaced regarding text massages from alleged financial institutions requesting data verification through a live link in the message. The BBB warned consumers about the fraudulent texts and reminded them of a similar case back in 2012. 


How it Works 

According to the BBB, mobile users were receiving alerts from their personal banks, asking them to verify their names, online IDs, and passwords at a site linked in the messages. In most cases the URL had the bank’s name included (or some variation of the name) and appeared to be almost identical to the legitimate website. Unsuspecting users would enter their personal data into the fraudulent site and would become at rick of identity theft and subsequent financial loss.  

Scams like these are, in essence, very similar to those we regularly encounter on laptop or desktop computers—usually via email or pop-up window. Over time most people have learned to avoid these scams and report them to the appropriate authorities.

So, what makes this so different? The success of this scam is tied to the emotional and irrational belief that our smartphones are safer because they are typically in our possession at all times. The intimate space of text messaging is falsely perceived as secure, more trustworthy, and relevant. 

This is unfortunately not the case. Just like unwanted push notifications, incoming solicitations and scams are very real threats if certain settings are left unchecked on a smartphone.


How to Combat Text Scams 

Most of have learned to deal with dubious emails and pop-up windows by deleting suspicious messages. Use the same caution on your smart device. Ignore the instructions of a text message asking for your participation to retrieve or verify personal data via text.

Further, you should check your phone bill every month. Check for services you haven’t ordered. Fraudulent changes may appear as one-time charges or be labeled ‘subscriptions,’ and may appear on each monthly bill.  

Commercial text messages, push notifications, and text subscriptions should lawfully provide you with an easy way to unsubscribe from them. If the option doesn’t appear to be available to you, check with your service provider to ensure your account hasn’t been compromised.  

Finally, ask your phone carrier about blocking third-party charges. Most phone carriers allow third parties (app companies, special ringtone services, etc.) to charge you for their services. Some carriers also have a way to block third parties from making charges. 

Don’t be afraid to call your service provider if you ever have any questions or suspect fraudulent activity. The worst thing mobile users can do if they suspect they are being scammed or unlawfully charged for services they don’t receive is nothing. Be proactive about your mobile safety, and you won’t become a victim of mobile scams. 

October 18, 2015

Google's Latest Startup Acquisition is a Mobile Messaging App


Google recently announced the acquisition of Jibe Mobile, a messaging startup specializing in helping carriers with mobile video chat services. The idea is to make video chat as commonplace as text messages, with the purchase designed to bring Rich Communications Services (RCS) to Android products. RCS is Google’s “new standard” for carrier messaging. Financial terms regarding the acquisition were not made public. 

“We’re very excited to announce that the Jibe Mobile team is joining Google to help us bring RCS to a global audience,” Google said in a statement to Re/code. “Jibe is a leading provider of RCS services and they’ll continue helping carriers easily deploy RCS to their users. We can’t wait to work with them and build on the great work that they’ve already done.” 

The search engine giant also noted that the acquisition is part of its support of RCS and subsequently the new mobile messaging strategy.  

“Mobile messaging has never been more central to people’s lives, and there is an incredible amount of innovation happening with chat applications across the mobile ecosystem,” Mike Dodd, Android RCS Software Engineer and Minister of Messaging, wrote in an Official Android Blog post about the purchase. “SMS carrier messaging is used by billions of people every day and enables people to reach anyone around the world, regardless of their device, carrier, app or location. However, the features available in SMS haven’t kept up with modern messaging apps. Rich Communications Services (RCS) is a new standard for carrier messaging and brings many of the features that people now expect from mobile messaging, such as group chats, high res photos and more.”  

Dodd wrote that Google’s work with carriers on this project will continue, and that Android is “excited” to support RCS standards and therefore help drive consistent deployment. 

Jibe has raised over $9 million dollars while marketing itself as the “Cloud Communications Company for Mobile Operators, [which] provides an open end-to-end technology platform for IP Communications.” In 2012, Jibe raised $8.3 million through donations by MIT and Vodafone to build “carrier-quality” messaging options into apps. 

“The big opportunity we saw at the start: to change the way people communicate using their mobile phones,” Jibe CEO Amir Sarhangi said in a statement. “The ‘small’ challenge we focused on: the future of messaging, the super simple mode for communication that’s favored by billions of people, all over the world.” 


Future of Texting

Sarhangi remarked in 2012 that the days of simply calling or texting someone were coming to an end, and that most of the time people were communicating through apps. Examples of such apps include the oft-used Facebook Messenger. 

“We’re already working closely with many of our partners on implementing RCS, and look forward to growing the RCS ecosystem together,” Dodd wrote in the same blog post. 

Will video chatting become as common as text messaging? This acquisition will certainly test this notion. For now, texting and chatting remain the favorites, with chatting over Google Hangouts and the aforementioned Facebook Messenger topping the charts in popularity. 


October 17, 2015

SMS Can Help Suicidal Teens Seek Help


Text messaging is an increasingly popular tool for public and essential services, forming a key part of their armories. Calling 911; reminding patients about doctor’s appointments; putting people in touch with mental health organizations - all these vital tasks can benefit from a communication technology now used more than any other.  

Now, teen suicide prevention has been added to that list.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among teenagers. According to the American Association of Suicidology, close to 5,300 under-24s took their own lives in 2013. Organizations like the Samaritans and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline operate contact centers offering 24/7 support to those in need, but many teens and young adults feel reluctant to make that call. Text messaging is a communication platform they’re comfortable with, at least as a first point of contact. It’s been successfully trialled by the U.S. Department of Veterans affairs for several years, and now the aforementioned suicide help lines are beginning to roll out their own SMS messaging services.

The Samaritans’ Massachusetts branch recently began a text messaging initiative to supplement the traditional phone line. At time of writing, it’s only available between the hours of 3pm-11pm - but it’s a start. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline offers SMS and online assistance at a number of its 160 crisis centers, and has so far found that nearly 40% of people reaching out for help via these channels have indicated they would not feel comfortable seeking help by phone.

Crisis center volunteers are generally young themselves, ranging from 16-30; they understand the language and quirks of text message communication, including grammatical idiosyncrasies and emojis. 

Many of us feel uncomfortable using the phone for even the most basic tasks, so something as important as expressing suicidal thoughts is enough to overwhelm people who are already under a huge amount of stress. Emotions that are hard to convey in a conversation can become clearer when written down. Additionally, text messaging offers a degree of privacy that a phone call cannot. Teens and young people who struggle to find a safe, private place to call a crisis center can turn to SMS messaging as a discreet alternative. If, for instance, a kid is being repeatedly bullied on the school bus, they can communicate with a volunteer even as they face bullies. 

The hope is that these organizations and others will make SMS messaging services as easily and widely available as phone help lines.

October 04, 2015

Lawyers Finding Business Via Text Messaging?


Navigating the laws that regulate advertising options for lawyers can be tricky.  Changing times bring up changing opinions on what constitutes forbidden telephone solicitation, and what does not.

Contacting potential clients via text messaging is a practice that has recently been reviewed by the Florida Bar. This method of communication has been deemed acceptable, but there are still restrictions that an attorney must follow. 

As a lawyer, how do you keep up with technology, communicating in a way that most people now do, while following state laws and regulations? Let’s take a closer look at how text messaging can work for an attorney and how lawyers are finding business via text messaging.


Acceptable and Unacceptable Means of Communication

Lawyers are not allowed to solicit business in person. They are also not allowed to call someone on the telephone and ask to be hired. But, an attorney can send a text message, according to a recent Florida Bar decision. 

In-person and telephone solicitations are forbidden because, the American Bar Association says, “the situation is fraught with the possibility of undue influence, intimidation, and over-reaching.” Just this past February, a Florida Bar committee said the in-person and telephone ban on advertising also barred text messages. But, the Bar’s board of governors reversed that ruling in July. They concluded that texts are more like emails than phone calls. 


Times are Changing

Bar President, Ramon Abadin, says that text messages are “an adaptation to reality.” He states, “Most people communicate by mobile data devices that happen to be phones, too.”

Abadin notes that a change in perspective regarding text messaging is “part of the national dialogue. It’s what we should be doing as professionals. We should be looking at how best to serve our clients.”

An attorney, Abadin says, should be looking at the ways in which his or her clients want to be communicated with, and the ways that communication could appear as inappropriate. The issue of text messaging arose when law firms inquired to the Bar as to whether or not texts were appropriate. An Orlando law firm that sent a second inquiry succeeded in getting text messages approved as logical means of communications. 

The firm described how it planned to send texts to criminal defendants, those whose email addresses were not available. It offered the argument that “criminal charges can change your life forever,” and suggested that a solid sample message might say, “You might feel scared and alone. The government accusing you has power; it has money; it has police; and it has many lawyers who will be working to convict and punish you. You should have a lawyer, too.” 

This law firm presented data showing that 90% of adults in Florida have at least one mobile device like a smartphone or tablet. It also showed that 90% of them use these devices for text messaging. 

The Board concluded that laws needed to be updated to reflect this change in American culture. Text messaging for lawyers is now a viable way to gain clients needing representation in a variety of circumstances. There are, however, regulations that must be adhered to even when sending text messages, and it’s important to keep these in mind to avoid breaking the law.



September 30, 2015

SMS Is Helping Women in Kenya Track Their Pregnancies


In remote areas of east Africa, regular healthcare for expecting mothers is hard to find. Nairobi, Kenya, for example, is desperately impoverished; the infant mortality rate in this region is one of the highest in Africa, with 40 out of 1000 babies not living past infancy. This is a story Malele Ngalu, marketing director for Kenya-based Totohealth, laments on a personal level. 

Ngalu was born in Africa; his mother faced medical disadvantages that resulted in the loss of his twin brother shortly after birth. Today, Ngalu has teamed up with Felix Kimaru, founder of Totohealth, a free SMS text service to help mothers and their infant children during a five-year program.  

Kimaru has raised more than $50,000 to get his startup off the ground and implemented in several rural areas throughout east Africa. Nairobi was one of the first areas Kimaru and Ngalu tackled, sampling the service to 2,000 parents.

According to Ngalu, most parents don’t realize their infant is sick until it’s too late. 

“We asked the parents why they did not bring the children in when they saw they had a problem, and they said they didn’t know there was one,” he said.


Texting for Health

To combat this problem, Kimaru has developed content to be delivered on a weekly basis via text message. The content relates to various developmental stages (up to the age of 5) as well as women’s health. The texts also advise regular checkups and include ready access to a help desk, where trained medical doctors and nurses are available to answer questions, as well as refer parents to nearby clinics or hospitals.

Since its launch early last year, Totohealth has seen significant user growth across the continent. Word of mouth from the original 2,000 users helped double the number of parents actively using the service in nearly 30 different countries. 

Unlike most developed countries, providing this service via app is not yet possible in east Africa—the infrastructure just doesn’t exist yet. 

“Even in low income settings like Kibera, the majority of people have basic phones,” said Ngalu.  

Most basic phones have the ability to receive and send text messages, so for the time being, SMS is the best way to deliver the information as well as track patient progress.  

According to Kimaru, the parents who use the service have a 96 percent likelihood of attending every recommended checkup and appointment. These kinds of results are getting the attention of large groups like the World Health Organization. 

The other advantage to using text is that it’s relatively inexpensive, costing only about 25 cents a month per user. Right now, county governments are footing the bill for the service, hoping that government policy and social awareness will help drive further change to reform maternal programs.  

Kimaru is looking to raise another $300,000 in funding to expand Totohealth’s operations throughout other parts of Africa. 

Crammers Charged with Multi-Million Dollar SMS Scam


Two men are facing charges of running a ‘cramming’ scam that netted them tens of millions of dollars by charging mobile users premium rates for unwanted text messages. 

Six defendants were charged in a New York federal court with an ‘auto-subscribe’ fraud. The scam involved sending text messages containing celebrity gossip, horoscopes and other trivia - and charging up to $10 per month to the unsuspecting recipients bill. The fraud charges were brought by a New York attorney, Preet Bharara, who had previously lodged charges against another six defendants connected with the scam, alleged to have taken place between 2011 and 2013. 

The case is just the tip of the cramming iceberg. So how do they work? And how can you stay vigilant for the signs of a scam? 

Crammers use local exchange carrier (LEC) billing to charge mobile users through their local telephone company accounts. By doing this (rather than charging through the providers of the product or service) the cost to the customer often goes unnoticed. Charges might be made for premium messaging services, special ringtones, apps or long-distance calling. Anything the crammers believe they can slip ‘under the radar’ on a phone bill is fair game. It won’t work on people who - as we all should - check their bills carefully, but, like all scams, the hit rate doesn’t need to be very high to make it worthwhile for the fraudsters. Add automation technology into the mix and crammers are able to target thousands of people in a short space of time, with minimal effort. 

The defendants at the center of the most recent cramming scandal were charging close to $10 a month for text messages sent without the users consent. Most users simply ignored the messages because the amounts were not big enough to ring any alarm bells. The scam is designed that way, which is why such schemes can levy huge amounts of money without being detected.

The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) offers some useful tips to prevent mobile users falling prey to scammers. Recommendation #1 is to cast a careful eye over your monthly statement to check for unusual charges. They may appear as a one-time charge or on a monthly auto-renewal basis. Be wary of generic-sounding fees, company names or services. Also look out for unsolicited text messages. If you receive text messages from a source you don’t recognize, relating to services you didn’t ask for, you should view this as a Big Red Flag. Knowing what’s going on with your phone bill, and contacting your service provider if you see anything suspicious, should keep you safe from being stung by crammers.

September 06, 2015

Mobile Spending to Increase 160% in Three Years


The best place to be if you’re a CMO is at the forefront of a marketing trend. According to a recent survey published by Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, the trend ahead is more spending on mobile. 

The CMO Survey included more than 200 inquiries to top marketing agencies and professionals. Mobile spending currently floats around 6% of total marketing budgets, but is estimated to increase by 160% (to just less than 16%) over the next three years. Duke’s survey, conducted biannually, is one of the oldest dedicated exclusively to marketing. 

For CMOs across the country, the increase is easier said than done. Money can certainly buy mobile ad space, but it doesn’t guarantee returns on investment. Getting ahead of this trend means answering important questions about which mobile marketing tactics are most effective for your business.


Choosing the Best Marketing Methods 

For starters, CMOs should carefully consider the best options available to leverage both the consumer and the brand. This means assessing the target audience, developing content that articulates a benefit, maintaining continuity across all media channels, and figuring out when these targeted customers are most likely accessible and through what media channels. Master these goals and you’re headed for the promised lands; make a misstep and you might damage the brand, or worse, consumer relations. 

The survey found a large gap between the effectiveness of B2B and B2C mobile marketing, with the latter greatly outperforming the former. Both categories were addressed in various fronts including customer acquisition, engagement, retention, messaging, sales, and profits.  

Mobile marketing’s greatest strengths among these categories come as no surprise: engagement and messaging lead the pack. This makes sense as mobile marketing certainly compliments the way people intrinsically use their devices to communicate and engage with content in real time. 

Like all things that promise a big payoff, there are risks involved. One of the issues most noted in the survey is the difficulty involved in quantitatively assessing the success or failure of social media marketing. Currently, social media sites are among the most trafficked via mobile.

Today, much of the marketing done via social media is handled by a third party, so getting accurate data or analytics can be difficult, sometimes impossible depending on the platform.  

CMOs have the difficult task of weighing the risks of ambiguous social media campaigns, with pressures from board members and other higher-ups who have noted behavioral trends shifting increasingly towards mobile.

That being said, it looks like getting ahead of this mobile increase comes down to research and analysis before dollars and cents. 


September 03, 2015

Infographic: Tackling the Flu with Text Messaging

The flu virus costs our economy billions each year. By promoting vaccinations for workers and children, it's possible to reduce the number of sick days and alleviate the annual burden placed on the healthcare system. We've put together an infographic that highlights the scale of the problem and demonstrates the role text messaging can play in increasing vaccination rates...