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Opinions Sun, 12 Jan 2020

Are cyber-criminals using short codes to dupe mobile phone users in Ghana?

Cybercrime Scammers File Photo

Is it the case, one wonders, that massive fraud is being perpetrated on innocent mobile device users, across Ghana, on all the cellular networks in our country? One hopes not. However, something very odd is definitely going on in the telecoms sector that shouldn't be happening.

Not being tech-savvy, my Android tablet is merely a convenient tool, which essentially enables me to post articles online. Naturally, it also enables me to communicate with individuals and sundry entities in my network of contacts.

I noticed, earlier today when I saw an SMS text message informing me that my dear sister had tried to call me, and that I should call her back, that there was also another SMS message, apparently sent on 08/01/20, which had also been sent to that selfsame AirtelTigo number of mine.

This is the said SMS message: "You've subscribed to the product Bet Correct! To unsubscribe send STOP BC to 6555!" Yet, I have never subscribed to any such service. The question is: How come I was sent such a message when I have never actually subscribed to such a service? What is going on? Such things ought not to happen in a nation with data privacy laws.

Could sending 'STOP BC' to the shortcode 6555, possibly result in the transfer of funds from my AirtelTigo voice and data bundle account, to whoever set up that shortcode account, perhaps? Not being tech-savvy, I am aware that I might be talking complete nonsense techwise. But how did I end up 'subscribing' to a service I have never knowingly subscribed to?

There are similar messages of phantom subscriptions on my MTN voice call number - all of which I have never knowingly subscribed to: and which I apparently have to send 'STOP' messages to short code numbers, if I want to stop receiving them. I called the MTN call centre number 100 to complain. Incredibly, the result has rather been that there has been a deluge of such messages - and my phone's messagIng inbox is now being flooded with them.

The hardworking Kofi Kapito's Consumer Protection Agency ought to approach the telcos through their industry lobbying platform, the Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications, to ensure that this outrage is halted immediately. The question is: Are cybercriminals now using shortcodes to dupe mobile phone users in Ghana? Hmmmm, Oman Ghana eyeasem ooooo - asem kesie ebeba debi ankasa. Yooooo..

Columnist: Kofi Thompson