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SA second-worst in the world for spam SMSes

Dec 03 2019 19:24
Carin Smith

South Africa is one of the most spammed countries in the world via SMS and phone calls, according to a new report by caller ID and spam blocking app Truecaller.

The Truecaller Insights report lists the top 20 countries affected by both spam SMS and spam calls in 2019.

Bad for spam and scams

South Africa comes in 6th place globally when both spam calls and spam SMSes are taken into account. It was also in the top five for scam calls. 

The top five markets to receive the most scam related calls in the world are, in order, Malaysia (63%), Australia (60%), Lebanon (49%), Canada (48%) and South Africa (39%).

South Africa was found to be the second most spammed by SMS country in the world. South Africans receive on average about 114 spam SMSes every month - about 4 spam SMSes each day.

Scam calls continue to be a big threat for consumers in South Africa, making up 39% of spam calls in the country, according to the report.

Apart from scam calls, in SA the origins of spam calls include those from debt collectors, financial services companies, market research and telemarketers.

The report found that "nuisance and unsolicited calls" continue to be on the rise around the globe. The 1.7 million daily active Truecaller app users receive a total of 25 spam calls monthly, a 20% increase from last year's findings.

In 2018 Brazil overtook India as the most spammed country in the world and it is still at the top as most spammed country in 2019.

Peru is the second most spammed country in the world in 2019, followed by Indonesia, Mexico and India. South Africa comes in 6th place ahead of Chile, the US, Russia, Colombia and Canada.

Emerging markets

The data shows that the top countries receiving the most spam via SMS are the emerging markets.

Ethiopia is in top spot with an average of 119 spam SMSes every month followed by South Africa, Kenya, Brazil, Colombia, Pakistan, Nigeria and India.

One of the most common scams is tech support fraud, where someone pretends to call from your bank or a company saying that your account has been hijacked and needs your help to take control of it.

There is also the "one ring scam" where an unknown number (usually an international number) gives you a missed call and when you call them back you get charged a hefty fee for calling to that number.

The "job offer scam" is where someone pretends to be a head-hunter calling you to offer you a job, but you need to pay a fee in order to get the job.

In its 2018 report, Truecaller found that fewer African markets were in the Top 20 compared to the previous year. South Africa was the only country in the list, it noted - with the number of spam calls increasing by 40%.

According to Christian Shekleton, chief spam officer at SpamDoctor, most of the time SMS spam is designed for the recipient to take an action, such as replying "STOP" to unsubscribe.

"Unfortunately, you are not helping yourself by opting out. You are just identifying yourself as a target," he explains.

Many SMS scams are disguised with the promise of gifts, product promotions, cheap insurance, or debt relief services to get you to reveal personal information like your full name, credit card and ID number.  

By clicking on a link in the message, it installs malware that collects your private information. Once the spammer has your information, it is sold to marketers or identity thieves to commit fraud.

Spam SMS can also generate unwanted charges on your mobile phone account. Your network provider may even charge you for merely receiving an SMS, regardless of whether you requested it.

spam report

spam  |  scams
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