That MessageMe SMS is not a Spam Virus

This warning message has been going around social media for the past few days. I think I saw it at least 3 or 4 times yesterday. Most of you might have seen it too.
MessageMeHoax
The warning message says that if you receive a SMS from MessageMe, don’t click the link. Ignore & Delete. It is a spam virus going around. Once you click on the link, the same SMS will be send to ALL the contact in your hp. And max out your SMS quota.
Firstly, MessageMe is a legit app available on iOS and Android App Store. It is something like WhatsApp or Line that allows you to send messages, photos and videos to your friends. I have that App installed on my iPhone for quite some time but I seldom use it as most of my friends are on WhatsApp.
Quite a number of you might have received this SMS invite from MessageMe recently.
MessageMeSMS
This SMS is from MessageMe. You are receiving this SMS because your friend just installed MessageMe app and tried to invite you to install the App so that he can send you message from MessageMe. Some people received a lot of these invite SMS. This means that a lot of your friends have installed the MessageMe App.
One thing I notice about the MessageMe app is that when you first installed it, the App will ask you to sync your address book with the App and invite your friends to join MessageMe. All the names in your address book are selected by default. See the screenshot below.
MessageMe02
So if your friend just click the Next button blindly, he will be sending out invite to ALL the people in his phone address book, including you. Which might explain why a lot of people are receiving the SMS invite. In my personal opinion, this is a very bad thing user experience. The names should be unchecked by default. Users should be made to manually select the people they want to invite. But I guess the App developer made all the names checked by default so that more people will send the invite to everyone in their address book.
And I guess it is working well for the MessageMe App developer since I heard a lot of people saying that they received the invite SMS. But do note that when you invite a friend to join MessageMe, the SMS is send via MessageMe’s server. It is not using your SMS quota. My understanding is that iOS does not allow Apps to send SMS. I think Android does allow apps to send out SMS but for this case, it is not using your SMS. When you click invite, your friend’s contact number is send to MessageMe and MessageMe will send out the invite SMS from their end. If you notice, all the SMS invite originate from MessageMe and not somebody’s mobile number.
So the App does not max out your SMS quota by sending out the same SMS invite. It is using MessageMe’s SMS.
By the way, if you click on the URL link on the SMS, it will send you to the App Store to download the MessageMe App.
The second part of the warning message is more interesting. It claims that people start receiving calls from +375 or +371 number. When they call back, they are charged $15-$30 and they copy your contact list in 3 seconds. If you have Credit Card details on your phone, they will copy that too.
This is the part that gives away the whole entire hoax. There is no way that someone can copy your entire contact list and Credit Card details using a phone call. No smartphone, feature phone, dumb phone or any phone in this world is able to do that. A phone call is a phone call. Scammer can’t copy your phone’s data when you call them. They need to install an App on your phone to do that.
And interestingly, this part of this warning message is from another hoax and is documented in Snopes.com. Even the telephone number is the same. I guess someone create this MessageMe hoax and added an existing hoax to make it sound more scary.
So don’t worry when you receive a SMS from MessageMe. It is not a Spam Virus. It does not max out your SMS quota. You will not receive calls from +375 or +371 number and be charged $15-$30. There is no way a phone call can copy your address book and Credit Card number.
Disclaimer: These are my own findings/views and not representative of those of my employer.

3 comments

  1. Precisely! The programmer in me also thought that those actions were not possible int he first place. Such APIs are not available to web apps in a web browser.
    Anyway, MessageMe has clarified regarding the rumour, but also did not deny the sms spam being sent. As you have investigated, it’s the app design and the company at fault that promotes sending of SMS spam.

  2. hanachiaki: Somehow that person have your contact number in his/her address book. Maybe you met that person in some networking event and he/she entered your contact details into the address book? Or could be your friend registering MessageMe using another name.
    MessageMe will only send you the SMS invite when your contact number is inside the new user’s address book.

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