The BBC reports today that twenty thousand mobile phone SIM cards used to send spam text messages have been blocked by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

It was given new powers six months ago to try to help tackle the growing problem. But it admits it is just beginning to scratch the surface.

An estimated eight million spam messages are sent in the UK every day, according to the Direct Marketing Association (DMA).

Spam texts are big business and can help makes millions of pounds for those involved in sending them out.

David Clancy is the investigation’s manager at the ICO and the advice from the ICO is to not respond to any SPAM text messages.

“Once they [spammers] have trapped your number they will then sell it into the [claims] industry,” he said.

“First users will pay £1, £1.50 for that phone number. A month later it will be distributed to lots of organisations for 50p, 20p, 10p a time. It makes a lot of money.”

But he says the ICO’s new powers are beginning to make a difference. They’re now able to execute search warrants when they think there may be evidence of spam texts being sent, compel mobile phone operators to hand over information and issue fines of up to £500,000.

He says the best advice is to not reply to any spam messages. “I’ve done it myself as part of this investigation,” he said.

“I’ve been contacted by numerous organisations offering me payment protection insurance claims, dent management claims and accident claims – don’t respond.”

While they admit it is impossible to filter out spam, mobile phone operators agree with that advice although they do have special text numbers that customers can forward any spam messages to. They’re then able to investigate the number which they came from.

Mark Brill is Chair of the DMA’s mobile council, whose research points to the figure of eight million spam texts being sent out every day.

“That makes SMS spam a serious problem,” he said. “We would encourage the ICO to continue their enforcement efforts and would like to see the UK operators to provide better spam filtering software.”