International 419-SMS

I don’t know if I get more spam than other people because my phone numbers are public, or if I’m just more of a touchy, grouchy git than other people and just react to every spam I get.

So, here is another SPAM-related post.

I just got an SMS from +256715316646 saying:

CONGRATULATION- You have won a TOYOTA LANDCRUISER VX worth $80,000 US DOLLARS.Contact the manager DR: STEPHEN through +254720043297 (JAPAN INT. MOTORS) THANKS.

Look closely. Firstly, it’s a 419-scam via SMS. I’ve never seen one of those before. 2nd, it’s from Uganda (a Uganda Telecom cellphone number). Third, it wants me to call someone in Kenya (a Safaricom cell number).

What on earth does one do to stop such things? Either this is run by a group with people on the ground in both countries, or they are using online bulk-SMS services. But International SMSs aren’t cheap. And I have no idea who to complain to about this. Let’s hope that this kind of spam doesn’t become common, because it’s virtually unstoppable if it does (like International e-mail spam).

Update: This page seems to have become a rant-board for people getting this spam. If it isn’t plainly obvious, here’s what to do: nothing. Don’t respond, don’t give them details, it’s a scam!.

Update 2: I won’t be replying to any of these comments any more - read the update above.

Update 3: Comments disabled, as this post is collecting more of the same comments. Don’t try and contact me personally if you have got a similar message, I’m not interested.

Spam Spam Spam Spam, Spam Spam Spam Spam, Lovely Spam, Wonderful Spam

This morning I got an unsolicited SMS spam “Home owners ? do u need money? R100,000 @ R752 pm! Reply YES and we?ll phone you”. I know that everybody gets things like this and they just shrug them off, but I have a rabid hatred of spammers.

With e-mail spam, there’s normally nothing you can do. The spammers are on the other side of the world, and they’ve used a botnet. But when I get something from South Africans, I act. We have the ECT act protecting us against spam. It’s not the most effective anti-spam legislation, but it’s better than nothing. I’ll send the IOZ Spam Message to the spammers, their ISP, the domain registrants etc etc. Usually I get a response. Usually they remove me from their lists. (If they don’t, their VP of marketing is going to have me harassing him over the phone in short order.) But of course they rarely mend their ways. Sometimes we end up in long e-mail arguments backwards and forwards, them saying “but I’m justified in spamming, because of foo”, me saying “no bloody way, because of bar” etc. It’s ineffectual and depressing, but at least I’m doing something to deter spammers and keep South Africa relatively clean.

But enough about e-mail. It’s time for some tips on dealing with SMS-spam. The SMS Spamming industry (euphemisms: direct marketing, wireless application service provider) is attempting to regulate itself rather than be regulated by government. They’ve formed WASPA and signed the sms code of practice. WASPA lets you file complaints against its members and fines them (although the fines are rather paltry).

I heard about them via Jeremy Thurgood’s recent spam-scapades. His spammers were charging R1 to opt-out. While the WASPA code of conduct allows a <=R1 fee, I agree with him that this is intolerable extortion.

In my case, my spammers had broken a few WASPA code of conduct rules:

  • 5.1.1.: They didn’t identify themselves in the SMS
  • 5.1.2.: There is no opt-out facility that I know of.
  • 5.1.4.: There is no advertised opt-out procedure.
  • 5.2.1.: I’m very careful about not allowing people to spam me, so I’m pretty sure they failed all the options. I’d like them to prove otherwise.

I looked up the originating number on the SMS Code website. It belongs to Celerity Systems. They are currently under a suspended sentence at WASPA, so my WASPA complaint should force them to fork out a fine. Lets hope for the best.

I’m against capital punishment, but I wouldn’t mind seeing a few spammers being hanged, drawn and quartered :-)

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