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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Beware Of ‘You Have Won A Free Gift’

Sulaiman Kamal | 4:18 PM | | | Best Blogger Tips

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Beware Of 'You Have Won A Free Gift'

KUALA LUMPUR – Do you remember the ‘scratch-and-win’ ploy used by unscrupulous businesses to hoodwink members of the public to buy certain products they do not really need?
The same ploy has since ‘resurfaced’, but this time it uses short messaging service (sms).
Recently when on his way to work, a medical practitioner who wished to be known as Dr Krishnan, received an sms reading “Congratulations, you have won a free gift. To redeem please sms this number…..”.

Eager to find what the gift was, Dr Krishnan replied to the 5-digit number and seconds later he received an sms telling him that he had subscribed to a certain service.
“To my dismay, the sms came with a RM4 deduction of my prepaid credit. Just imagine, for only one sms that the company sent, it cost me RM4. What happens when the sms keeps coming for a service that I don’t really need?
“And to my disgust, I need to stop the service by replying to …. (another 5-digit number) and this cost me another RM1.
“In all, I lost RM5 due to my eagerness to know what the free gift was. I’m sure I’m not the only one who fell for this (ploy). Just imagine if 100 cellular phone users had fallen for this trick, then the company stands to gain RM500 in only a matter of minutes”, he said, adding that there are hundreds of thousands of cell phone users in the country.
Businessman S. Muthu also fell for the same ploy.
“Out of the blue, I received an sms congratulating me for receiving a free gift. Of course, I wanted to know what the free gift was and I replied to the message.
“If I knew it was for a service that I did not need, I would have ignored the earlier sms”, said Muthu.
Consumer and social activist Gurmukh Singh said only prepaid cell phone users received such sms messages.
“Almost everybody who received such an sms would reply in good faith”, noted Muth.
He said it is legal if the parties involved offer mobile phone users their services, and the public has the option to say yes or no to the offer.
“But the free gift is good bait, something which members of the public could not resist”, said Gurmukh.
He said in order to know what they would be given as a gift, those who received the sms would waste no time replying, only to discover later that they had been tricked to subscribe to services they did not need.
“Some of the services offered include items available for sale or offers for trips. But this does not come free. In actual fact, consumers do not need such services, as they could find them via other ways which are free. “To make matters worse, cellular phone users have to pay a heavy price for this sms”, he said.
Those using prepaid plans would find their credit amount drops drastically after being ‘tricked’ into subscribing to these ‘unwarranted’ services.
Gurmukh said only those subscribing to prepaid plans usually fall prey to this scam.
“These unscrupulous parties usually prey on the prepaid users because they could straight away deduct the charges. These parties usually stay away from those using postpaid lines,” he said.
Why not report the incident to the authorities?
Gurmukh noted, “Those who fell prey to this scam should report the matter to the authorities. However, in most cases they would keep quiet over the matter.
“The victims would regard that they lost RM5 (RM4 for receiving one SMS informing them that the person had subscribed to a service and another RM1 for terminating that service).
“Usually the victims were tricked only once. Realising they had been tricked (after receiving the RM4 sms they would normally terminate their service at the cost of another RM1). That is the end of the story and they would never be tricked again”.
Gurmukh warns, “Consumers should ignore sms messages that offers them free gifts. There are many ploys using the sms to fleece consumers. Some would try to get your bank account number, while some would resort to other tricks.
“Nobody actually wants to give you something free as gifts unless there is some motive behind it”.

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