Insurance firms shamed for spam SMS

2012-08-03 07:29

Cape Town - The worst industry in sending spam to consumers is the insurance industry and consumers should take measure to limit their exposure to unsolicited mail, an industry insider has said.

"The highest volume of spam in South Africa currently is in the insurance industry and the second industry is cellphone contracts. Those two in terms of our surveys are the industries that send out the most spam," managing director of Dr Pieter Streicher told News24.

Spam sent to cellphones is become a big problem in South Africa, particularly as users have to unsubscribe from the list to limit the number of messages.

Streicher, however, rejected this method saying that was not good enough to protect consumers.

"Opt out does not work: To give you an example - you have businesses that buy and sell personal information. They create these lists which they then sell on to a company which then uses that list to send marketing information.

"Now let's say you opt out - you are opting out of that specific company sending you marketing information, but you're name is still on the list, and your details on that list are being sold to thousands of other companies. It's impossible to get off the list," he said.


The Consumer Protection Act (CPA) was meant to provide consumers with some degree of defence against a growing mountain of spam via SMS, but its opt out clause means that the onus falls on consumers to try and get themselves off lists.

Streicher warned that the CPA also had the unintended consequence of creating a market for the trade in personal information.

"The Consumer Protection Act works on an opt out basis which basically means that any company in the country can send an e-mail or SMS to anyone in the country... a marketing or promotional message and they only have to stop once consumers opt out.

"That opens the door for spam and creates a market for the buying and selling of personal information."

The Internet Service Providers Association (Ispa) recently published a local spammers Hall of Shame and said that despite efforts, it was difficult to control the unsolicited mail.

"While ISPs have to bear the bulk of the cost for bandwidth overuse by spammers, this cost is often passed onto the consumer through increased internet access fees or a degraded service level," Ispa said.

Spammers were also able to send messages to a new cellphone number within less than two weeks of activation.


"It's harvested in all sorts of places; it's scraped off the internet - any mobile phone number or any e-mail address you happen to publish - even for instance if you advertise a vehicle in the classified newspaper," Streicher said of numbers that were targeted.

He doesn't oppose the sending of unsolicited messages in principle, but was quick to say that when the process was automated, it posed a risk to the people working in marketing industries like telesales.

"It's a big problem when comes to electronic communications because the communication can be automated. It's technically possible to press a button and send a message to 40 million people.

"The excuse that the direct marketing industry uses that it should continue to work on an opt out basis otherwise people are going to lose their jobs is disingenuous because it's an automated process - you don't employ many people."

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  • mark.higgens.9 - 2012-08-03 08:03

    and your 'opt out' sms will cost YOU standard sms rates!!!

      roslyndavidrose - 2012-08-03 08:12

      And verifies your number for some other list that is sold! Selling my personal information is fraud. Check all forms that you fill in - there is an option that the consultant often checks automatically, stating that you agree to receive such advertising. There is also usually an option to allow other companies to access your credit info. Don't allow this either as it serves no good purpose for the consumer.

      fussed.anderson - 2012-08-16 08:29

      Opt out should be reverse charged back to the company that sent the sms at double the cost. (no cost to you)

  • ambauli - 2012-08-03 08:03

    Ever since RICA, these people now know our names, ID numbers and where we live.

  • wcslater - 2012-08-03 08:04

    Let's stand up and boycott all the companies that send spam!!

  • roslyndavidrose - 2012-08-03 08:05

    Since money rules and the public is not protected against unsolicited use of their cell numbers/email addresses, I refuse to support any company that Spams me, no matter how tempting the offer. Its easy to set a filter to send all mail from a particular address directly to Trash

      carpejugulim - 2012-08-03 08:28

      ever since RICA there have been numerous advertising sms and phone calls which I would dearly love to send to trash and then you get told you have to go to some internet site and take your name off there or use the "opt out" function and the flipping things still keep coming

  • neil.frandsen - 2012-08-03 08:09

    Simple make a law that if you do not receive a response from the customer it must then be constituted that the individual has opted out and no further communication can take place. This will allow for companies to still market through these channels however it will not overwhelm the individual.

  • - 2012-08-03 08:39

    How do you shame someone who is not named? Which insurance companies?? Its not enough to generalise.

  • jacques.kruger - 2012-08-03 08:49

    I've tries a gazillion times to opt out, and I still get spam SMSe EVERY DAY! Crazy. Abusive. I feel completely powerless. Why can't the service providers protect us more?

      chrisjanbotha - 2012-08-07 19:03

      Because they make out of it... No incentive to protect us!

  • nathan.loftieeaton - 2012-08-03 08:59

    ESET Mobile Security will allow you to easily blacklist these numbers. You can define trustworthy contacts via customizable blacklist or whitelist or simply block message traffic from unknown numbers. One can also easily block unwanted marketing/coldcalls.

  • isabellameyer - 2012-08-03 09:49

    Report them to Bulk SMS providers have to adhere to a code of conduct, which does not allow for spam. That usually works to get that spam stopped. Sending spam contravenes botht the new Privacy and Consumer Protection Act, so you have the right to demand that they remove your name and details from the list. And all SMS have to have an opt out option. If they do not have that they are also contravening the laws and WASPA's code of conduct and you can report the sender on their website. You do not have to have the name of whomever sent it to you, you can just report the number where it came from as WASPA knows which vendor uses which numbers.

      arthur.hugh - 2012-08-03 10:23

      I think you can be put on a "no contact" list. Only sms's I get now are scammers not spammers.

  • steve.monty.1 - 2012-08-03 10:09

    You Can opt out via the Direct Marketing Association at this works really well and the spam then only reaches you from a few unscrupulous companies

  • sean.crookson - 2012-08-03 12:23

    @isabellameyer WASPA doesn't act any more. They just opt you out instead of telling you where the company acquired your number. An example of a slide into slackness again since a spammer took over the committee. Also the DMA opt-out list is not enforceable if they aren't members. Every loophole under the sun puts spammers in charge. And to correct Dr Pieter Streicher, you can't send SPAM without having a prior relationship with that account holder. So don't give your number to Pick 'n Pay, Builder's Warehouse(big spammers) etc.

  • sherice.marks - 2012-08-03 15:57

    I have been harrassed in the last few weeks by Vodacom and MTN selling contracts. I have asked to be removed from the list but they continue to phone. My suggestion is don't answer calls from unknown numbers. Don't OPT out as that makes it worse- just delete. I think we should have a name and shame of spammers.

  • keith.roberts.98434 - 2012-08-03 17:21

    Don't nuisance callers (Printer cartridges, my wife's pet hate and one that causes her to descend to abusive language.) ever cross unproductive numbers off their lists? My wife gave a VERY abusive reply to one caller, got a reprimand from the caller's supervisor, and shortly afterwards received another call from the same people. I pretend to be interested and then leave the phone off the hook.

  • PHUZZY187 - 2012-09-19 14:17

    I wish I could get my hands on the clowns spreading my number

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