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Isn't it time for our mobile operators to stop doing business with SMS scams?

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 2-Aug-2009 19:04

In a very welcome move, BNZ has decided to stop charging honour fees - those $20 the bank charged every time they approved a payment when your account balance was in the red.

In a letter to customers BNZ says the bank will see a reduction in revenue but there will be no increase in other fees.

Their CEO says they are doing this because many complaints come from these fees. Someone's salary was a day late and the bank would charge $20 per transaction. Or someone's gym membership is charged a day earlier and there they go charging those $20 fee.

The bank decided it was easier to not charge these fees at all - make the customer happier. And a happy customer is a customer that stays longer, right?

What about fees that some pay for "SMS subscribption services" that are mostly useless? You know, those services that you see being advertised in the middle of the night asking you to send a SMS to a shortcode - with the 1/10 second warning blinking on the screen that "this is a subscription service and you will be charge $5 per SMS received, up to three SMS per week". Or being advertised online through all possible means?

Lots have been written about these scams (Juha, Dominion Post, Geekzone). Unfortunately people don't look at the fineprint on TV or website before entering their mobile numbers on enticing web pages. I believe many genuinely don't understand the implications of entering their mobile numbers on an online form.

In defence of our telcos, there's "double opt-in" mechanism requirement. But I don't think this is enough to prevent people being silly. Also, what guarantees do we have those Premium SMS providers actually respect the double opt-in requirement? 

Instructions to STOP the subscription are there in the fineprint. But how many people actually remember the fineprint, let alone the instructions on how to stop the service? Or the phone number for their "local" helpdesk?

There's the case of someone who didn't actually even had to go through the "double opt-in" to get subscribed. That's because a Facebook application was granted access to this person's private information on the social network website. The fineprint for that application said something in the lines of "you hereby grants us right to access your private information on Facebook and subscribe your mobile to our service".

Facebook (as Twitter) only accepts mobile phone numbers after they are authenticated. For those scams it is a goldmine of valid mobile phone numbers. And we all know how silly applications spread on social networks.

Today I received a press release from a new "service" that allows you to watch movies online. FREE MOVIES ONLINE.



If you visit the page (which is actually hosted on a free Blogger account) you will be told that you can download free movies if you complete a survey. If you click YES then your browser will redirect to a "survey" that is in fact a SMS scam. The fineprint says:

"By signing up to this service and by entering your personal PIN Code which will be sent to the mobile phone number supplied by you on this website, you acknowledge that you are subscribing to our service and that you may receive marketing messages. All plans are subject to the Terms and Conditions. You may stop this subscription service at any time by sending a text message with STOP, to short code [removed]. Your phone must be polyphonic compatible, be Internet-enabled and have text messaging capability. You must be the owner of this device and either be at least eighteen years old or have the permission of your parent or guardian. Customers will receive the club at $5.00 three times per week plus one off club joining fee of $5.00. Standard/other text messaging rates may apply."

Now disable javascript and load the blogspot page and you can see it's actually just a collection of links to illegal download sites.

At $5 three times a week we have people being charged an average of $65 a month or $780 a year for those "services".

If you're lucky in some cases if you complain to your mobile operator then you might get a refund. But the operators are right in the sense that it's the user's responsibility for signing up for the "service".

But isn't about time our mobile operators cease any relationship with these scams? Isn't worth to have a happy customer instead of a customer that have been victimised under your watch?








Other related posts:
Microsoft Ignite New Zealand, Microsoft Surface Studio
Geekzone data analytics with Power BI
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Mauricio Freitas
Wellington
New Zealand


I live in New Zealand and my interests include mobile devices, good books, movies and food of course! 

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