This is how those pesky political campaigns got your phone number

Q: Why am I getting bombarded with political text messages and how can I stop them?

A: The marketing world figured out years ago that text messaging is the best way to ensure a message gets to its intended audience.

Studies suggest that 98% of text messages are read and responses occur within three minutes. By comparison, email has a 20-22% open rate with a minuscule response rate of 6% and response times that range from hours to days.

Political campaigns saw these statistics and quickly jumped on the bandwagon.

How did they get my number?

Our cellphone numbers have become a very valuable marketing tool because so much of our online and purchasing behavior can be easily tied to them.

Depending on your state, your voter registration may require a phone number or other public records that anyone can access.

Data brokers aggregate this data from hundreds of sources to build dossiers on each one of us and sell that data to anyone willing to pay, which is one of the large expenses for most political campaigns.

If you’ve ever participated in any type of political campaign or donated using your smartphone, signed electronic petitions or participated in surveys or polls, they’ll often ask for your number.

Even if you haven’t, any number of companies that you did business with that asked for your phone number could share it with “third parties” because you agreed to these terms buried in the lengthy “terms of service” document that no one reads.

There’s an app for that!

Social media apps are certainly a prime source, but virtually every app that you have installed on your smartphone could have this data-sharing arrangement as part of their terms of service.

Just assume any app that is free to use is one that likely collects and shares its data with third parties.

The apps may provide a way for you to control what data is shared, but you’ll need to go to the settings of each one to make any changes.

FCC rules for political campaigns

Since it’s nearly impossible to keep your phone number from being gathered by political campaigns (they’re also exempt from the “Do Not Call” registry), there are some things you can do to help reduce the onslaught.

The FCC’s website outlines the rules that require prior, expressed consent if campaigns are using automated systems for sending the messages, but no prior consent is needed if they are manually texting from another cellphone.

Robo-texting systems should include the option to reply with “STOP” to opt-out of future communications from that number.

Forward to 7726

If you receive a message that you believe is spam, you can forward it to 7726 (SPAM) on any carrier to report the sender. Make sure you forward the entire message without any modifications for it to be properly assessed.

Get a burner number

Consider getting a free “burner number” from a service such as Google Voice to start using for all your purchases, reservations or any non-personal communications so you can somewhat shield your real number.

The Google Voice app allows you to use your existing smartphone but receive calls, texts and voice messages from the new number. If it becomes overrun, simply get rid of it and sign up for a new burner number.

Ken Colburn is founder and CEO of Data Doctors Computer Services. Ask any tech question on Facebook or Twitter.

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