Un­so­licited SMSes an­noy­ing, but le­gal

Vo­da­com warns of scam­mers ‘phish­ing’ for data

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - JAN CRONJE

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.

jan.cronje@inl.co.za

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