Over in New Zealand, the popularity in cellphones has exploded in recent years to the stage where almost any person over 8yrs of age has one.
Naturally scammers can see the opportunities of giving young, inexperienced people cellphones and have expanded to cover the market, by offering what appears to be freebies, or one-off purchases, which infact are actually subscriptions.
An example is polls:
“Who is hotter? Britany Spears or Lindsay Lohan? TXT your vote to 12345”
Once the unsuspecting user does send the TXT they get signed up to a service that charges them $3 per TXT and begins sending them out regular TXT messages. There was one case recently in NZ where the user only realized that they were getting charged when their pre-pay mobile ran out of credit. Once they had loaded credit back on, and sent the unsubscribe message, the confirmation of the unsubscribe also cost $3!!
Another common area to see this happening is when cellphone ringtones are advertised. Once you read the fine print, you can see that it is infact a subscription signup, rather than a one-off fee. (although I can’t believe anyone would pay $5.00 for a ring-tone in the first place.)
Because of the legal issues, they have now starting showing small fine print to cover legal requirements. However, it certainly still isn’t at a morally acceptable level. Today browsing the web, I found a really good one:
Observe the following advertisement:
It contains typical ad content designed to attract gullible users (duh…. someone on a website I don’t belong to left me a message? That makes perfect sense, let’s go read it!)
Out of amusement I visited it and rather than ending up at a dating website, I got a horoscope TXT signup page! Ignoring the obvious fact of false advertising, let’s move on through the form on the website in order to get my horoscope.
You go though 2 pages, before it prompts you for your mobile number. THEN it displays the fine print, which is very easy to miss, because all attention is focused on the circle image in the middle.
Wow! That seeming free TXT service is actually a $10 per week fee? I think I’ll rather spend my money on something more meaningful instead…
What worries me far more than the fact that the these scams go on, is that so many people don’t think before putting in their details. I’m sure if I put up a webpage saying “See if your credit card number is lucky – enter here to go into a prize draw!” I’d get people dumb enough todo it.
It’s such a pity I have moral integrity. I could become a professional scammer and retire to a private island at age 25 otherwise. :-)