National Security 101: The Mysterious SPAM SMS

SPAM SMS Mobile Phone Message

(Tackling SPAM SMS on mobile phones is much tougher than tackling them on normal emails as it is not clear who actually sending it. Image source: Business Insider)

If you glance through your SMSes received, you will notice that one of the biggest spammers around seems to be our own telcos.

Jeff Ooi first talked about SMS scams way back in 2007 but that affected mostly the prepaid users (primarily because they don’t have itemized billing and so the leeching away of the money went almost unnoticed). And then as more users became aware and started to make noise about it, that SMS scams somehow died out (at least on the surface).

Over the years and until today, we have been bugged with countless spams from our own telcos.

I get more spam messages from Maxis and by unknown 3rd party providers than real messages from friends and family and these spam messages quickly choke my phone inbox. There always seems to be some new messages on daily basis on new services, new telco service centres, new songs, new games package, sports update, etc.

I curse these spammers as I spend precious time clearing away the “good for nothing” messages from my inbox.

I wonder why Maxis can’t just remove these “advertisements” from the messages to the itemized billing (which they charge me for). And if I need anything more information, I can always hop over to the internet. I don’t need a constant reminder via SMS too!

So, it has been almost a routine for me to get spams from Maxis or from unknown senders and me spending time to clear these spams away. That is until recently, I saw an unfamiliar message in my inbox – what caught my eyes was the words “RM5.00”. It was worded (damn! talk about incomplete sentences) as:-

RM5.00 bos atau saudara rawatan unggul seperti itu, tetapi juga menyokong kemenangan untuk mendapatkan para manula ini melakukan

RM5.00 Prestasi kemampuan komunikasi saat ini sangat penting

Until now, I get unfamiliar messages but it is often stated as “RM0.00” which meant it will not cost me anything.

So, when it shows RM5.00, somehow I got this feeling that this message was not free. It was for RM5.00 and I got 3 other similar SMS. At that time, I felt RM20.00 had simply vanished from my pockets.

I know I did not subscribe to any services to get these messages and worse, the content of the messages did not make any sense. But somehow I know that they were charging me RM5.00 for each message. Have I been scammed by some ruthless spammers and the telcos are simply turning their eyes off it?

I decided to wait for the next day before I make the case against Maxis and get them to block these spammers (and perhaps in the process, block themselves too). I was angry for the unfair treatment that I was getting from my telco when it comes to paid messages that I did not want. That is until my wife asked me what had happened and then told me what had really happened, rather sheepishly.

She was playing with my phone and somehow, accidentally subscribed to some horoscope SMS service. And she forgot to inform me. Mystery solved! We looked at each other – me, wondering how she could have done it accidentally and she, worried that I would be angry with the paid SMS.

I may have lost RM20.00 but I managed to contain the damage. Anyway lessons learned – there are not many things in this world that is free. The good thing was I managed to unsubscribe from the service and the daily RM5.00 per message was stopped on its tracks.

Now for the spam SMSes from own telcos…wonder when that will end? I am tired of recovering back my inbox.

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