Unsolicited SMSes annoying, but legal
Vodacom warns of scammers ‘phishing’ for data
AS MANY as one in every three South African cellphone users receives an unsolicited SMS message every day, according to a new study.
But such messages are legal, as long as they have an opt-out option for customers.
The new study, published by the Mobile Ecosystem Forum this week, polled cellphone users worldwide about how often they received unsolicited SMSes.
They found that 33 percent of South African cellphone users received an unsolicited SMS every day, while 61 percent got at least one per week.
Only Nigeria had a higher rate, with 76 percent receiving at least one unsolicited SMS every week.
The study, which polled 6 000 users in nine countries, also sounded a warning that fraudsters had turned their attention to SMSes, due to the ubiquity of anti-spam filters for email.
The authors made the distinction between legal SMSes sent from marketing firms, and phishing attempts.
“While some unsolicited text messages are a nuisance, alerting users to an unwanted offer or service, others are more pernicious.
“These are ‘phishing’ messages, which purport to be from an official organisation in an attempt to dupe the user into revealing private information,” the authors said.
The data also found that 48 percent, or nearly half of all South African cellphone users, had received a phishing SMS.
Asked for comment on the rules governing the sending of SMSes in South Africa, a spokesman for Vodacom said it was not illegal for South African companies to send marketing messages to cellphones.
“However, according to the Consumer Protection Act, companies using direct bulk messaging to market their services and products to consumers must have an opt-out solution for customers.”
Vodacom said if an SMS did not have an opt-out option, or the user believed it was fraudulent, they should use the “report this” on the scam function on Vodacom’s website.
Asked whether the company had statistics on what percentage of unsolicited SMSes were scams, Vodacom said it could not see the content of SMSes.
“Therefore ( we) cannot determine which are legitimate and which might be scams.
“Where fraud instances or abuse is reported to us and a criminal case has been opened, we delete the (user) from the network, thus preventing a continuation of such fraud activity from the identified mobile number,” Vodacom said.
Neither Cell C nor MTN replied to requests for comment sent earlier this week.
The study authors reported that despite high rates of unsolicited SMSes and phishing attempts, SMSes were still the most trusted messaging platform.
Thirty five percent of respondents said SMSes were the most trustworthy, as opposed to 28 percent for messaging apps (such as WhatsApp), while 18 percent chose Facebook, Yahoo or Skype.