Monday, 3 December 2012

Growing trend of mobile phone spam in Namibia

A consumer recently sent a copy of an SMS that offered the consumer a chance to make money from filling in forms and directed them to a website. The email reads:
“Earn Extra income. Get paid up to N$3 750 per form. No computer needed. Very profitable. Visit to get started.”  The short message was sent from the short service number 5001.
Once a consumer uses the website link, (which sounded Namibian) they were redirected to a website in South Africa. In addition, the page created a pop-up window which offered a free computer programme download. This is a typical example of spam being used to get more of your personal details which the website owners can sell to other spammers and they use your network of contacts to further spread their message.

Unfortunately there is no easy way to make money. These types of messages are mobile phone messaging spam that is aimed at getting you interested in something for nothing before making your money disappear.

What is SPAM?

SPAM stands for Salted Pork and Meat (or as we know it in Namibia – bully beef), and is now commonly used to refer to uninvited messages or advertising sent out in bulk. While the most widely recognised form of spam is e-mail spam, the term is applied to similar abuses in other media: instant messaging spam, Web search engine spam, spam in blogs, wiki spam, online classified ads spam, mobile phone messaging spam, Internet forum spam, junk fax transmissions, social networking spam, social spam, television advertising and file sharing network spam.

The aim of the SPAM is to get you — the consumer — to react to the information message and then be drawn into making a purchase, giving your personal information or even becoming involved in an attempt to defraud you of your money.

How do I stop SMS spam?

The cellular providers in Namibia do not have a regulatory body as yet. In South Africa commercial SMS messaging is regulated by the industry organisation WASPA (Wireless Application Service Providers’ Association). Membership of WASPA was made mandatory in 2005 by the mobile operators and TV stations for any company doing value added services in South Africa. They also provide a list of approved SMS providers and allow consumers to complain via their website or telephonically.

The Namibian cellphone companies allow businesses to send SMS messages to users using the short service number (for example 727 or 5001). Businesses using this service can determine how much they wish to charge if a consumer uses this number to send in a reply. The cellphone companies charge the costs of a normal SMS, and a further 50 percent of the costs being charged to the consumer. When a company wishes to rent a short service number they are informed that they should get permission from the consumer to send to their number, but no official procedure seems to be in place to manage consumer complaints.
As a consumer it is your responsibility to protect your cell phone number by being careful who gets your number. One of the biggest sources of SMS spam is number gathering carried out by Internet sites offering “free” ring tone downloads. In order to simplify the download, users must provide their phones’ numbers. This information is then used to send frequent advertising messages to the phone.

It must be noted that companies can collect your number to send you messages you might want to receive, for example your account payment reminders or promotional offers. You should check whether they keep your information private and do not share it with other businesses.

Another consumer scam

While investigating this issue, the cellphone companies wished to remind consumers to be careful when answering missed calls or CallMe requests from a number you do not recognise. Some consumers have been fooled into phoning back and the party answering has transferred their call or some other trick to keep them on the line. When the consumer gets their account, they find this was a premium number and they have been charged a lot of money for this call back.


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