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What is a Premium SMS number?

A Premium SMS number is a 3-7 digit number used for messaging that charges a premium price to the mobile subscriber either for messages sent or received.

Also called ‘reverse billed messages’ the price charged to the subscriber can be anywhere from twice as high to even fifty times higher than a standard P2P message.

The main legitimate use-cases for premium SMS numbers are for making charity donations by mobile, or as a revenue generator in online or televised events where the public can vote for contestants by text.

They can also be used to pay for goods and services, for example for tickets on transportation services.

Are premium SMS numbers a scam? 

In most regions premium SMS numbers are legal but with tight restrictions. The recipient must have knowingly signed up to the service, and there must be an option to unsubscribe, for example by replying to the message with STOP.

Premium SMS numbers have a bad reputation as they are often used by fraudsters to extract money from unsuspecting mobile users – for example the fraudster will send fake automatic messages to a list of numbers and recipients that reply will be charged at an exorbitant rate.

Some unscrupulous app developers will also build functionality into apps that silently messages a premium SMS number from any phone that downloads them.

If you are a victim of either of these frauds, you should report it immediately to your service provider who can block the number.

How to block premium SMS numbers?

There are two options for blocking premium SMS numbers depending on the type of mobile handset that you have.

  1. If your handset supports it, you can change the settings to disable access to premium SMS. This is usually under the Applications > Advanced option and will be called something like ‘Access to premium SMS’.
  2. Alternatively, you can ask your operator to block all traffic to and from premium SMS numbers, though be aware this will block all numbers of this type, including legitimate ones.