This is the story about my (questionable) decision to allow an app to send thousands of international text messages in the hopes of a few extra bucks in passive income. Grab a snack, sit back, and enjoy.
Throughout my years of finding weird ways to earn money online, I’ve discovered a few apps that pay money for sending and/or receiving text messages. Most of them are actually pretty decent, so I’ll probably post more about them later on. But for now I want to focus on one app in particular: “SimCash“
Chapter 1: Discovery
I discovered SimCash during one of my late night parades of reddit and other sites, looking for weird ways to earn money. Someone had made a post explaining that it was a way to take advantage of the unused SMS quotas of your mobile plan (most of which are unlimited these days) and get paid for the texts the app would send.
The concept isn’t actually that bad – you know how when you sign up to a new website, they sometimes ask you to confirm your phone number by texting you a code? Well it turns out that sending these codes can cost website owners anywhere from $0.05-$0.50 each, through providers like Twilio and Nexmo. If alternatives like SimCash were able undercut the traditional providers by paying people for a few extra texts every month, they’d stand to disrupt the entire industry.
I’d actually been using a few other apps like this already, so I decided to give it a go. After all, who’s gonna notice a few extra text messages on an unlimited plan anyway? Unfortunately, I failed to realize that SimCash was sending way more messages than any of the other apps I had tried. Like, a lot more.
During peak time it could send over 1000 texts an hour. I thought this was great news, since more texts means more money, and I had a contract with my mobile provider that explicitly stated I could send unlimited international texts, so I decided to keep off the built-in limiter and let the app run at full speed.
It actually went really well for a good 2 or 3 weeks! I had no problems using my phone, and I even picked up an extra number to double my earning potential. Overall I was able to withdraw a total of €2200 (a little over $2600 USD at current exchange rates) and I wasn’t really worried about extra charges on my plan, because after all, unlimited is unlimited, right?
Chapter 2: “Unlimited” is a sham
When my cellular provider offered up “unlimited calls and texts,” they probably meant a good couple hundred of texts between me and my friends. Whatever they were expecting, it appears to have been less than 200,000 – because that’s how many I sent, and they certainly weren’t very happy about it.
As it turns out, despite many providers advertising plans with “unlimited” inclusions, they’re still counting your usage. Most providers will have something called a fair use policy, which outlines the actual number of messages you’re allowed to send before they can start throttling your usage. This is usually around three thousand texts a month, or 100 per day – at which point the provider will likely contact you and ask you to stop.
These sorts of policies are usually included in the fine print of a contract, or the carrier’s terms and conditions. Despite this policy, I was never actually contacted by the carrier, and nobody ever informed me that this was a thing. Instead, I was able to go weeks without any warning, until one day my phone just suddenly stopped working. No calls, no texts, no data.
It took a little while for me to figure out exactly what was happening. I had a suspicion it might have something to do with my little enterprise, but I never got any sort of warning or alert that the service was disconnected. At first I thought it could just be an issue with my phone, since it was showing that service was available, but nothing was working.
Chapter 3: Tech Support
Eventually I contacted technical support, who informed me that my number had been suspended for “suspicious usage” and was under investigation. I told them about the app, and asked if it had anything to do with the suspension. The support assistant couldn’t give me much information, but told me to contact a specific department with information about the app and any explanation I could give for the “suspicious activity”
After contacting the department I was told that the case would be under investigation, and hopefully the service would eventually be reinstated. I wasn’t previously aware of the fair use policy, so I had pretty high hopes that I could just explain what happened, apologize for not knowing, and disable the app. The tech support guy seemed to agree.
I waited one week. Then two. Then three. No response. Weeks went by without access to my personal phone number, or any sort of mobile data.
Eventually, after numerous follow-up emails and what seemed to be a pretty lengthy internal investigation, I was finally able to get my number back. I paid nothing for those extra text messages, but had to promise I would stop using any of these apps in the future.
Chapter 4: Conclusion
This probably could’ve been avoided if I had just set a daily limit, but overall it was a pretty interesting experience, and at least now I know not to do anything like this with my phone carrier in the future. I ended up investing all the money from the app into various cryptocurrencies (SimCash has a variety of options for payment, including PayPal, bank transfers, and the one I chose, crypto.)
Since then the value of my wallets has grown to around €3500 (or $4162 USD at the time of writing) and I learned a valuable lesson to stay within the limits. Unfortunately I also had to stop using all the other similar apps, some of which I had been using for months, because my provider now knew I was aware of the policies, and I didn’t want to run into any more trouble
If you ever do decide to use SimCash, or any more of these apps, I highly recommend getting a spare SIM card and setting a daily limit of around 100 texts per day – unless you don’t mind losing the number, that is. And even though I’m not using it any more, feel free to use my referral link if you sign up. It’ll give me a little extra kickback without impacting your earnings!