I just received a text this afternoon, and it’s all too familiar:
D’Auditor’s of PGMA Charity foundation nform u dat ur cel.# Won P.950,000 2nd prize winner draw last:07/17/07 DTI.#1058 s2007 call now i’m atty.Marton G. Reyes [sic]
I quoted the SMS as is.
Now I’m an avid fan of scam-baiting activities, such as those on 419eater.com (do check out the site; lots of fun stuff there). I’ve actually tried communicating with email scammers, and they really get persuasive with their attempts to get your information. I’ve tried creating dummy identities, complete with fake IDs, email addresses and telephone numbers.
These people are desperate to cheat you out of your money, and even a year after my last contact, the 419 scammer (a.k.a. “nigerian scammer”) is still emailing me following up their requests for information.
With SMS scams, sometimes I’m tempted to respond, and lead these people around in circles–possibly even to reveal their identities or perhaps get caught by the authorities. At the very least, responding to them and exchanging messages would deplete their mobile credits. The point is to make them exert enough effort and spend enough time to think it’s not worth scamming you anymore (but of course, you spend time and effort, too).
But–and this is a big but–today’s unlimited texting schemes make it easy and cheap for scammers to mass-send text messages to other users within their networks. For instance, for about PhP 50, you can get five days’ worth of unlimited texting, or so. How many messages do you think these scammers can send in that time? I think in a day, they can send hundreds manually. What more if their phone or SIMs are connected to computers?
And out of those thousands, even if only a small percentage responds and even if a smaller percentage actually believes and gets lured into sending prepaid credits, cash, or whatever other things the scammers are asking for, it’s still worth the low investment of a few pesos per day (or week).
The marginal cost is nil or close to nil, so this means the more messages they send out, the better their chances of getting more in return.
Unlimited texting schemes are a godsend to heavy texters. It’s a good thing. But with any good thing, these schemes are prone to abuse. And I think these text scams are made easier this way.
So, do you think there are ways to prevent this type of abuse?