Guwahati, Wednesday, August 18, 2010
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Unsolicited SMSes rankle users in NE
Staff Reporter
 GUWAHATI, Aug 17 – Quite frequently an irritant, at times it proves to be a honey trap. Fictitious and malicious texts or SMSes choking inboxes are becoming a worrying trend in Assam and parts of the Northeast raising questions which have no ready replies.

One fact is now appreciated: the cell numbers of customers have become accessible to a large number of groups or individuals. They are in a position to use the numbers in any way they wish. The confidentiality of phone numbers is lost to a certain extent.

This was found out in a bitter way by KK Das, a young professional based in Guwahati, after he was assured a gift by an American firm. Believing his good luck, he sent an email to the given address and was promptly asked to state his name and residence. Soon thereafter, he was asked to deposit a certain amount as freight charge. Months after that, Das is still waiting for his promised gift.

There have been other cases where people may not have lost money, but after receiving hoax text messages have given out important personal details. It was only later they would learn that they had given out private information to parties they would never know about. They will never know to what use the information would be used.

Gifts and lottery wins are the most common messages received by people in Guwahati. But there have been occasions when jobs were promised to people to work in UK and EU. The modus operandi was to ask for a certain payment, which some people made. As complaints about these deceptive text messages grew, the British High Commission had to issue a notice warning people about the scam that was taking place.

Ranjinee Phukan, officer-in-charge of British Information Centre, Guwahati has had encounters with people who came in with SMS which assured them jobs in England. “The people who came in were young, some with good qualification, asking how to go about securing a job in England. Most of them belonged to the 25-30 age group,” she mentioned.

In other cases, some customers have complained about the content of some text messages, which appear in bad taste. A few months back some BSNL subscribers actually received SMS messages which offered them female companions.

On other occasions, some telemarketing agencies have been making unsolicited calls to customers and referred to their names in the conversations making it clear that the names along with the phone numbers were in the possession of third parties.

When contacted, senior employees of a few cell network providers revealed their knowledge of the problems, but agreed that there was little that could be done to track down the servers from where the texts were sent, many of which were based beyond India’s borders. “We would like to block the offenders, but till now that is beyond the technology at our disposal,” said a manager from a major cell network.

Another personnel said that some complaints about unwanted SMS messages have come in, to which customers have been asked to use the ‘do not disturb’ facility. Once that is activated then the cell number is logged on to a server that filters many unwanted calls or texts. However, some customers have complained that even after doing that, there is no respite from offending calls and text messages.

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