SMSes telling people they have won a major cash prize in a competition have just one catch – there is no prize.
SMS is fast becoming another medium to take unsuspecting people’s money.
Known as phishing, the fraudsters send out bulk SMSes telling the recipient they have won a cash prize and the “winner” needs to call the cellphone number provided in the message.
When the number is called, the person is usually informed that they need to supply their personal banking details for the prize money to be deposited.
Nomsa Thusi from Vodacom corporate communications said: “These scams are becoming more rampant.
“In the past, fraudsters have tried to solicit personal information from unsuspecting people via e-mail, they have now turned to using SMS to gain this information fraudulently.”
South Africa reportedly has 51.6-million mobile subscriptions, according to africantelecomsnews.com.
The number of subscriptions exceeds the estimated population, a large market which fraudsters can target.
Vuvuzela received a phishing SMS on August 28 which read exactly as follows: “Congratulation’s you have won R165,OOO
From NOKIA YEARLY PROMOTION.YOUR TICKET NO 009kp. PLEASE CONTACT ON 0723620191. FOR YOUR CLAIM. FROM 8:00AM-5:00PM.”
When Vuvuzela phoned the number given in the SMS, the person who answered the phone was reluctant to give his name. He repeatedly asked the reporter to phone back from a cellphone so that he could “verify the winning ticket number”. When questioned further, the man ended the call.
“Nokia South Africa does not run competitions where unsolicited text messages are used as the exclusive means of communication,” said Leo McKay, head of communications for Nokia South Africa.
He said these scams often ask for a deposit or other payment and that Nokia customers would never be asked for a payment to claim a prize.
Thusi said: “If the SMS sounds too good to be true, for example if you have won an outrageous prize, then it probably is [a scam]. Ignore it.”