Thousands of mobile phones users have complained they are being charged for receiving premium rate text messages they say didn't request or can't stop.
An investigation for BBC News 24 has found that whilst many people may have signed up by mistake, others could be the victim of scams.
The premium rate regulator ICSTIS states that in most cases the customer WILL have subscribed - for example by taking advantage of a free offer without reading the terms and conditions.
However it admits some adverts are misleading and that responding to a marketing message - even with the words "no thanks" is read by a computer at the other end as consent.
Have you been affected by texting scams?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:
I started receiving unsolicited SMS messages from numbers I didn't recognise so deleted them and thought nothing of it - until I received my next bill. This showed £7.50 of text charges. I called my service provider to complain that I hadn't sent any SMS messages but all they could say was I had been charged for those I had received. They refused to believe that I had not subscribed to these services. It took me 3 months to get them to stop charging me for receiving these but have still had no refund for their lack of control for me getting SMS from companies I didn't want.
Gavin, Hampshire, UK
I never, ever, answer text messages if I don't know who sent them. They are deleted immediately. I also do this with emails, which I screen at server level. It is incredibly simple not to fall victim to these scams, just ignore them. Unfortunately, I culture of greed and material desire means that there will always be people for whom promises of easy money are too enticing. And so the scams will go on.
Jennifer Hynes, Plymouth, UK
The quickest way to solve this is to make the phone companies liable and make them refund the costs, I guarantee that some means of stopping this fraudulent activity, and that is what it is, would appear very quickly!
Reverse charge text messages really should be banned outright.
Myron, Rochdale, UK
Sorry but I have no sympathy for people fooled by such obvious scams. I just wish I could meet them all. I'd be rich!
Andrew Carter, Southampton
I have just discovered that I have been sent 3 text messages about 'free' ring tones, each at £1.50. I certainly can't recall subscribing to this service as I am very careful about these offers. If it was sent by my service provider I as a 'free' offer I would have trusted it was indeed free and a one-off - not a scam, as it appears to be. I unwittingly deleted each message subsequently, not realising that they were all costing me dearly. Thank heavens for this report or I would have continued unaware that I was being charged on average £1.50 every few days for a 'service' I did not want!
Sue Linge, London
I have been receiving premium rate text messages that I never requested for about two months. When I got the bill for December I had been charged £36 for these messages. I phoned my service provider to complain and was assured that my phone would no longer be able to receive (or send) these messages. However I continued to get them and had to change my number to stop them. I am now fighting with my service provider to try and get the money back for the text messages I have received since my initial complaint (£42 worth!)
Claire Moffat, Broxburn, West Lothian
I received a text once which just asked me to reply confirming my name and address which they already had. Then it said I had won a prize. Of course the prize never came, so they made £1.50 per text from me. I thought it would be all right because there was no number I had to ring.
Anon, Cardiff, Wales
Whenever I get these spam SMS I report them online to ICSTIS. The more evidence and complaints they gather the stronger their role. The worst ones are the fake "You have voicemail, read now" which look very like the real thing - especially confusing for the older user.
I lost my mobile last year. Someone must have picked it up and subscribed for these text services. After I reported my phone lost, I got a new phone with the same number, and kept on receiving these texts. I didn't think anything of it as I thought you would only get charged if you replied to a text. However, I was getting charged for receiving these texts as well. About £100 went down the drain.
Hemal Shah, London
There should be legislation passed which requires the network provider to bar all these rip off calls. These are similar to spam mail and it should be the responsibility of the network provider to install a 'firewall' to stop them.
Over the past year I have received several of the "Someone is trying to contact you through our dating service..." Now if I was an insecure teenager I might just be a little curious. I have also started receiving some that are worded as though it's a message from your voice box so you may just instinctively reply to the message. I believe the relevant regulation bodies should put a cap on how much a premium service can charge. Can any legitimate business really justify charging over £10 per minute?
I've been receiving texts offering me free ringtones every couple of days for the last month or so. A bit of a nuisance, press delete, and that's the end of it...or so I thought. Got my bill today - at £2.56 each, it's a very expensive nuisance, especially when I didn't request them in the first place.
If something is too good to be true, it usually is, if you reply to these ridiculous "free lunch" texts then you deserve all you get.
Dan, Hemel Hempstead
It happened to a friend who was charged £20 for receiving a series of texts after voting in a competition. The terms and conditions stated the cost would be £1.50 full stop. Basically, text scams are legalised criminality. You text a number for an agreed cost, then they text you back repeatedly for much more than you agreed, regardless of the terms and conditions. It is then your responsibility to complain. And even if your complaint is valid, the punishments are mild and you still won't get your money back; the company wins if you don't complain and doesn't lose if you do. My advice: get your phone companies to bar premium rate numbers from your home and mobile phone, and never, ever text to a 5-figure number unless you are sure you trust the company.
Steve, Exeter, UK
If any come through to my phone, I save them and when at home I enter the text message and its details on the ICSTIS web site and complain against it. I've probably logged 5-10 spam SMS and have had a letter back that I've been part of getting a company fined £10,000. Success for the little person!!!
Carl Ogden, Manchester
I was scammed by a car spares finder on the web. I entered the part I was seeking and expected, as promised, an e-mail back from them informing me of any suitable local suppliers. The site also asked for my address and mobile number. I was very surprised to find I received two useless premium rate SMS from them. I complained to my mobile supplier that quite apart from the unwanted and expensive texts anybody's mobile number could have been entered and thus land an unsuspecting party with costs. They seemed disinterested.
Peter Willis, Bristol, UK
Something like this happened to my 12 year old daughter who was on pay as you go, and puts £5 on per month. A ringtone merchant started 'stealing' her credit. However, as the 'phone company had not actually passed the money over to this third party, all you have to do is to instruct them not to do so, and to reinstate your credit. That way these third parties will soon go out of business.
PJ, W. Yorks
These scams only work because people are silly enough to fall for them. It's very easy - if you don't know who it's from delete it!
Benjamin Raine, Oxford, UK
I received a message saying I had urgent voice mail and to call a number. I was suspicious and on investigating found that it would have cost me £10 a minute. I was lucky but how many other people have been caught by this?
18 months ago I fell for a 'you've just won a prize worth £2K'. Obviously the prize never arrived and I learnt my lesson. Once bitten, twice shy! Do feel a bit stupid for falling for it but all was not lost. I used my girlfriend's house phone to ring the prize line.
Paul R, Bournemouth
I had a mobile last year. I received a text one day saying that I had a secret admirer and if I wanted to know who it was I should reply to this message, so I did! On my bill the following month I was charged £84.50 for calling this number. Watch who you text or phone because it could cost you an arm and a leg!
Rob Mould, Wenvoe, South Wales