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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.

A good Samaritan ​who ​offered to lend two men short on cash a couple bucks to cover their meal at a Brooklyn eatery ended up beaten and robbed for trying to help, cops say.

"A mobile phone is the perfect spying device," Kevin Haley, director of product management for Symantec Security Response, told TODAY. More often, hackers will take a popular app, insert malicious code and then put it out there for people who don't want to pay for the real thing. Someone might balk at paying .99 for "Minecraft," download a free, unofficial version on a random website, and then happily play it while the bad code does its job.

"If you go off-market, the risk of getting one of these 'Trojanized' apps is very high," Chester Wisniewski, senior security adviser at Sophos, told TODAY.

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.

“Now, I’d say most people have been exposed to it themselves.” If you haven’t, you will be soon.

’ ” says Mike Reading, Cloudmark’s director of technology for the Americas.

"They are not just giving you free software for the hell of it.

They are doing it to infect your phone and make some money off of you." In a 2012 study, 85 percent of malware discovered on Android phones by North Carolina State researchers came from these repackaged apps.

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