Philippines Mobile Phones and SMS (Text Message) Scams

The Philippines is sometimes called the texting capital of the world and from what I’ve seen it’s true.  People in the Philippines, and Filipinos in general, seem to text non-stop.  In the US, it’s most common for people to have contract based plans with cell phone carriers and those plans usually have plenty of, if not unlimited, voice minutes.  Before coming to Asia, I can count the number of times I sent a text message on two hands and those were because someone texted me first.  Since then I’ve sent thousands, sometimes upwards of 200 per day.  Texting is the preferred method of communication in the Philippines, and other parts of Asia I’ve been to, mostly because it’s cheaper than voice calling.

Load na Dito!

Like I said, in the US most people have contract based plans.  Now, texting is catching on and people have the option to get unlimited texting packages added to their monthly bill.  In the Philippines, the majority of people don’t have contract plans; they use pre-paid instead.  If you’ve never heard of that, pre-paid is when you pay the carrier, either by purchasing a card with a set value, through an ATM, Internet banking, or even through distributors / resellers that can transfer value to your phone.  In the Philippines, this value is referred to as “load”.  That’s why when you look at photos of the Philippines you’ll often see signs that say “Load na Dito!”  It means “Load Available Here!”.  You can go to those stores and have value added to your prepaid SIM.  That’s another thing.  Phones in the Philippines are all based on GSM / SIM cards.  There’s no CDMA like Verizon and Sprint use in the US.  At least, not that I’m aware of.

Another way to have value added to your pre-paid SIM is by transfer from a friend or family member.  Well, it doesn’t have to be a friend or family member.  Anyone can transfer value to your SIM and it only carries a 1 PHP fee, to be paid by the sender.  This is where the scam comes in.

Now, I want to say that only an idiot would fall for these scams, but the fact that it’s an ongoing problem shows that people do in fact fall for them and fairly regularly.  The exact wording of the scams vary, but it usually goes along the lines of a ‘friend’ loses their phone and gets a new one, but needs you to send them ‘load’ until they can get their own and pay you back.  Sometimes they add a name to the text message, so that in the event the recipient does know someone by that name, they’ll be more likely to follow through and send a transfer.

I’ve probably received 20 or 30 messages like this in the past 4 months.  I deleted most of them, but here are some recent samples:

Example of a phone scam in the Philippines.

Example of a phone scam in the Philippines.

Example of a phone scam in the Philippines.

If you ever happen to visit the Philippines and you have a GSM phone, it’s easy to get a prepaid SIM to use while you’re in the country.  Just be aware that you’ll likely find yourself receiving messages like this and you shouldn’t fall for it.  Of course, it’s more obvious if you’re just a tourist because who else would you know here that would ask you for load?

Twitter Social Games Are Annoying

Recently I heard of a new social game called Spymaster.  Well, not so much heard of, as much as suffered from.  The game is currently in beta right now, and is something that has been cooked up for Twitter.  I can understand social games on Facebook.  They make sense, because they’re separate and they don’t interfere (too much) with other people’s home pages.  If someone’s updates are annoying you, you can hide the updates from that particular application, to keep your stream from being cluttered.

Spymaster, on the other hand, seems to manage its notifications by posting everything a player does to their Twitter stream.  Yes, everything.  The problem with that is that on Twitter, you either follow someone or you don’t.  There’s no way to hide particular Tweets.  So, if you start putting out a lot of spam you give people two choices, put up with it or un-follow you.  I’m leaning towards the latter.  It’s hard enough to sort through all of the Tweets I get already, without having to scan through crap like “I just did damage to @XXXXX in an attempted assassination attempt!”

Twitter is all about providing useful information to your friends, either in the form of status updates, witty sayings, links, images, video… well you get the picture.  In other words, no one is following you on Twitter to read your spam messages from a social game.  I mean, who really cares?  Other than yourself of course?

I don’t see Twitter games that spam people’s streams becoming overly popular, but if they do, I hope to God that people are smart enough to create a separate account for it.  One last thing I’d like to say is, isn’t Twitter already suffering under the current load?  Is it really smart to try to build a social game that sends a lot of Tweets when the platform is already regularly overloaded?