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Just deleting unwanted messages could prove costly.

I’ve always deleted spam texts messages as soon as they arrived. Typing STOP would alert scammers that they’ve got a real number. It was best to just ignore them. Or so I thought.

A surprise bill

Last week I received an email for my O2 bill. It’s always exactly the same amount – give or take the odd penny. So I was surprised to see it was nearly £8 more. Checking the bill online I saw three charges of £2.50 for “premium and information”. I had no idea what these were.

The lady at the O2 call centre was very friendly and told me it was for premium text messages. Some recent spam messages that I’d deleted without reading had cost me £7.50!

Apparently the only way to get these is to agree to sign up online. I don’t know whether someone had mis-typed a digit, or whether it was data mining. All I know is that I definitely didn’t agree to texts from a company called “”!!!

Getting the money back

O2 said the mobile operator was just the middle man so it couldn’t offer me a refund. The lady did block the number sending messages to me, and gave me the name of the company and a free phone number to call.

The company – Virtual Rainbow – proved tricky to get through to. When I finally did, I was immediately offered a refund by cheque or Paypal. That suggests quite a few people complain about not signing up for these texts!

I asked when and how I’d been signed up for this service, but I was told that information was on another system. When I said I was a financial journalist and I’d like to speak to their press office, the woman got a little nervous and said someone would definitely call me back that day (they had my number after all…). However I didn’t hear a word.

A week later I did get £9 though, so they obviously felt they needed to give me a little extra!

Why you need to check your bills every month

I don’t know if this was just an accident or a scam, but if I was someone who regularly went over my included minutes and texts and had a different bill each month, I probably wouldn’t spot something like this.

So please do check your mobile bills each month – if this carried on for a year it would have cost me £130!

What to do if you get spam text messages

1. If the text mentions a charge, reply immediately to the message with the word STOP. It’s up to you if you reply STOP to other spam messages. Things like PPI and accident claims are almost certainly looking to see if they have a real number.

2. Call your operator to see if you’ve been charged. You can also ask them to block the number. You can also text them on 7726 which they’ll reply to asking for details of the spam text.

3. If you have been charged, ask your operator for the contact details for whoever sent the text. Contact them and demand a refund.

4. You can report the company to the Information Commissioners Office on 0303 123 113.

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