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” “You have 1 unread message from your secret crush! I ignored some, replied “STOP” to others, and even tried calling back in the vain hope of confronting my tormentors. I’ve long known not to click the links in spam emails, but 10 years of spam-free cellphone ownership had lulled me into complacency when it came to texts.

Every buzz meant another text message charge on my bill. As I belatedly realized, a reply of any kind confirms to cellphone spammers that they’ve reached a working number—which they can then sell to other spammers.

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A few clicks later, you’re asked to enter your credit card number so they can charge a small $8.99 shipping fee.

By the time you notice you never received your i Phone 5, the website will be gone, and your name, phone number, and credit card number will have entered the vast and lucrative underground market where such information is traded.

The past three years, however, have brought a proliferation of cheap, prepaid cellphone plans with unlimited text messaging. In 2009, Americans received some 2.2 billion text messages that they identified as spam, by the estimate of Richi Jennings, an independent market analyst. But even that figure doesn’t capture the biggest boom, which has come in just the past few months, according to Cloudmark, a San Francisco-based firm that provides messaging security for major wireless carriers.

But that method was easily stymied, because wireless companies can separately track and filter such messages.

(Damn you auto-correct, I meant “free Wal-Mart cards,” not ”free walnut cards!

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