Ina Fried

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Bulk-SMS App Maker Bazuc Responds to Lookout’s Claims, Says Consumers Should Pay Attention to Risks

The maker of an app that Lookout has branded as a security threat contends that it is offering a potentially lucrative, if risky, business opportunity to consumers.

Bazuc distributes an Android app that when installed sends SMS messages through a user’s phone, with Bazuc promising to pay users a tenth of a penny for each message sent.

After spending a month researching and its apps, Lookout on Thursday warned that the app poses a significant threat to users, including the potential for angry phone calls and seeing their phone service disconnected for violating the terms of their contracts. Lookout said it would warn users of its security software who have the app installed, and also said it was reaching out to carriers and other companies that it believes may have a problem with what Bazuc is doing.

In an email, Bazuc creator Richard Loomis confirmed some things that Lookout said, but took issue with others, and insists that it details many of the potential risks on its website.

“Yes, there are risks involved for the app users, which are very clearly posted in a very large font on both the website and inside the app itself,” Loomis said in an email to AllThingsD. “One thing I’ve learned from many years of business, honesty and being upfront about the negative aspects of anything goes a long way and earns you trust with the people you’re doing business with. I have nothing to hide …”

Loomis said he knows of only about 10 users who have seen their accounts disconnected for using the service. The company concedes that it has moved away from its initial premise — that it was distributing messages being sent from overseas users.

“The Bazuc free international SMS app is no longer functioning,” Loomis said. “The original idea of that app was like an SMS exchange system, but it never really took off that well, and the coder didn’t do such a great job anyway, so we let it fail and concentrated on the Earn Money app.”

Instead, Loomis confirms that he is primarily distributing bulk messages for various business customers, in turn offering them a lower per-message rate than they would ordinarily have to pay. Most of the messages, Bazuc said, are for password resets, verification codes or other alerts.

“That’s about 90 percent of our business and yes these messages are coming from very large corporations and are all legit,” Loomis said. Bazuc said that occasionally an ad campaign will slip through, but added that the company puts a stop to it whenever it spots such activity.

“We want 100 percent of our business to be verification codes and alerts,” Loomis said. “Advertising campaigns, spam or any phishing etc … will ultimately hurt my business and possibly ruin it completely, so we’re doing everything we can to make sure that type of traffic does not go through our network.”

Loomis acknowledged that the app has been pulled twice from the Google Play app store for violating a clause that requires that users approve each text message sent on their behalf.

“Clearly our app users will not want to click approve 3000 times daily and at the end of the day, we don’t need Google Play to get the app out there,” Bazuc said in the email.

Also at issue is the way that the company is currently distributing its app. After a visitor is on the site for 20 seconds, the Android app starts downloading automatically.

“I didn’t think this would be a big deal, since there’s no malware, viruses or advertisements of any kind,” Loomis said. “In addition to that, after download a user would need to install the app, read the warnings, complete registration and click the start button before any SMS would actually be sent.”

Lookout also posted details, including Better Business Bureau complaints, on past businesses run by Loomis.

Loomis acknowledged issues with his past businesses, a now-defunct debt-consolidation service and a social network that he agrees was an “epic fail.”

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— Gitesh Pandya of comments on the dreadful opening weekend box office numbers for “The Fifth Estate.”