Stopping Coral's SMS Spam

by @edent | # # # # | 1 comment | Read ~3,292 times.

I don’t like spam. I’m very careful always to tick the “do not pass my details on to 3rd parties” box on forms. So, when I do get SMS spam, I like to know who has been flouting the rules. See my previous investigation.

A few weeks ago, I received this rather annoying message:
Coral SMS Spam Screenshot

I’m not a gambler – and I’ve never had a business relationship with Coral. So why are they sending me this tripe? I took to Twitter to find out.

I spoke to customer care who were utterly bemused as to why I’d received this. They promised to look into it.


A few days later I got a voicemail from Martin Johnson of DBS Data. Run out of a small industrial estate in Chelmsford, DBS Data offers bulk SMS services as well as junk mail and email.

DBS finally got back to me about how my number ended up with them.

Following your recent communication I can confirm that we have removed your details from our systems and, following any pending client campaigns within the next 28 days, your details will not be used again by DBS for any of our clients. Your information was provided to us by the below organisation who you may wish to contact.

USM Digital
2, Greswolde House
197b Station Road
West Midlands
B93 0PU
Tel: 0156 482 2633

Right, onwards!

USM Digital

As far as I can tell, USM Digital is a very small business run by Mark Reohorn, Mark was quick to answer the phone, and promised that he’d get back to me that afternoon.

Two days later I received a phone call from “Dana” from USM. You can take a listen to a excerpt:

According to Dana, my number had been gathered by them in August 2007. That’s six-and-a-half years ago. I didn’t think to ask if they knew I was still using the number. Most people would change numbers several times over that time period.

I’ve no real way of knowing if I did opt-in or opt-out of sharing my numbers in that glorious summer of old. I’ll be generous and say that it is entirely possible that I gave my phone number to what I thought was an insurance company – but I don’t think that means the number should be spammed over six years later for unrelated goods.

Back To Basics

It should be incumbent on all of these parties to check the data they’re using.

Coral told me they bought the data in good faith from DBS. I assume they said “give us verified numbers of men aged 24-32 who met criteria X, Y, Z.”

I imagine that DBS – not having a suitable quantity of data – then went off to another supplier and said “Give us something vaguely suitable – the mugs at Coral will never know the difference.”

USM Digital, it would appear, dragged out data from half a decade ago, dusted it off, and then spun it as numbers who had adequately given consent.

And, with that, Coral end up spamming people who never asked to have their numbers shared with a company which helps drug dealers launder money.

SMS marketing can be a powerful tool in the right hands. In this case, Coral comes across as indiscriminate spammers who don’t care about the provenance of their marketing data. DBS are a broker who have to rely on dodgy 3rd party suppliers. USM’s data is so out of data that it may as well be useless.

Remember, if you receive spam SMS please report them to the Information Commissioner’s Office. If you can find who has supplied your number, ringing them up and having a friendly word with them about their spamming practices is very cathartic!

One thought on “Stopping Coral's SMS Spam

  1. Craig H says:

    I’m put in mind of the inequalities of protecting web sites from bad guys; they only have to be lucky once, but you, the defender, have to succeed every single day. If you missed the small print just once, the spammers direct marketers can hound you for years and years afterwards 🙁

    Marketing permission, whether deliberate or inadvertent, shouldn’t be transitive and definitely shouldn’t be able to be sold as a commodity.

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