Unsolicited SMSs

The other day I received, what I consider, a spam SMS. Generally I would have just ignored it and carried on my with life, but not now. Not during exams, when I have time to do something about it.

The message was a general SMS here to receive XYZ, SMS stop to unsubscribe.

So I searched a bit for the numbers in the SMS but never came up with anything. Further searches relating to spam messages returned information on WASPA (Wireless Application Service Provider’s Association). They’re kind of like the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of bulk mail. But apart from a list of registered and affiliated parties, didn’t help much.


I also came across DMASA (Direct Marketing Association of South Africa). They have an opt-out service which requires all DMASA members to check through this list before contacting you with messages (register here). If your names on the list, they won’t contact you [1]. This is great, but not what I wanted. I wanted to know who had contacted me and why they thought they could. So I searched further.

Eventually I came across this website. It’s linked to WASPA and allows you to search a number in their database. Searching for SMS number returned Cael Media. A bulk-sms service company. I sent them a message requesting information on where they got my number.

I received a very fast reply from an employee asking for my phone number and assuring me I’ll be removed from their database and that I’d be provided with the information I requested the following day.

The one great thing is that WASPA take their job very seriously, and it appears that most bulk messaging companies are scared of stepping out of the WASPA code of conduct.

I got a heartfelt reply from Cael indicating that they’ve actually only just been WASPA accredited and are having some technical issues with their application. They offered me a refund on any expenses I may have incurred to settle the issue. I hadn’t incurred any costs, thanked them for the offer but re-stated that all I wanted was to know how they got my number.

A few days went by without any reply, so I sent an other email to them. I got a reply telling me they had got my details from Blackmoon Investments which allowed them to market to my mobile number. I haven’t been able to find out anything about Blackmoon investments, and further enquiries with Cael Media have been fruitless.

I also spoke with a friend about the situation and he showed me some communication relating to a similar issue he had had. After investigation and laying a complaint with WASPA, the company eventually revealed where they got his information. It had been bought from an overseas company. The cost of 5 million active emails and 6 million contact numbers came to $1000. Effectively R0.0007 per detail.

While I was busy on my mini-crusade, I figured I’d give Agrimark a piece of my mind as well. Since Christmas last year I had been receiving promotional SMSs from a British telephone number with specials at Agrimark. This makes matters slightly difficult, as the foreign number indicates that they are most likely not WASPA affiliated. The only email addresses I could find on their website were their branch managers, so I typed up an email to Agrimark Stellenbosch’s branch manager, basically asking to be removed from the list, and also enquiring where they got my info.

I received a very prompt, and very curt reply the next day telling me I’d been removed from the mailing list.

I replied thanking him for removing me, but that I still wanted to know where they got my number or who manages their bulk mail service. I never received a further reply.

[1] Note on the opt-out list. It’s managed by the DMASA. Some people don’t like the idea of giving their details to the very organisation which effectively manages direct marketing. Furthermore, adding your details to the list entails ID numbers, residential addresses, telephone numbers the whole lot. As a friend pointed out, you could have some fun at the bank with these details. And the big issue here is that the database was allegedly leaked, putting 39 000 people at risk of identity theft.