WASPA clarifies RICA misperceptions.

Published on: January 12, 2011

The Wireless Application Service Providers’ Association of South Africa (WASPA) has moved to correct misperceptions that RICA legislation may offer some protection against mobile fraud. The truth is that RICA is not designed to prevent mobile consumers from becoming victims of cellular scams and common sense remains consumers’ best defence.

South Africa’s RICA law is intended to help authorities track down subscribers with SIM cards linked to criminal activity, notes Leon Perlman, chairman of WASPA. “RICA, however, provides little or no protection from scammers, who may work around the constraints of RICA or even use international numbers to launch their schemes,” he confirms.

The organisation has noted that many users of mobile content and services believe that the new Act safeguards them in some way against mobile spam and mobile 419-type scams. This is simply not the case.

RICA is the Regulation of Interception of Communications Act (and Provision of Communication-Related Information Act), which requires everyone that has an active cell phone number or purchases a new Prepaid Starter Pack to register their SIM cards. All current and new contract, top-up and prepaid customers must register their SIM cards by showing proof of identity and address to their service provider or its agents by the cut-off date.

WASPA is an organisation that represents providers of mobile applications, content and services in South Africa. One of its most important roles is to act as a self-regulatory body that ensures that the industry behaves in an ethical and consumer-friendly manner. The organisation’s members are all bound by WASPA’s strict code of conduct, governing how they use consumers’ information, bill for services, sending marketing messages and so on.

Continuing, Perlman says many of the scams which originated in email communications readily transfer to mobile phones. “Watch out for unlikely sounding messages that announce that you’ve won a lottery or competition that you didn’t enter. Many will claim to be from legitimate companies; check with these companies if they have such promotions, either by contacting them directly or by researching on the Internet.”

Watch for advance-fee frauds, which claim to be moving large sums of money which require your ‘assistance’. Be wary of replying to messages that offer easy money or seem designed to draw you into pyramid schemes and other dodgy deals, says Perlman.

The golden rule is still if it seems too good to be true, then it is probably too good to be true. Perlman stresses, “Cyber crimes, which have translated into mobile phone scams, are very difficult to solve or prosecute. That means a greater responsibility on the part of every consumer: you have to be your first and best line of defence, as prevention is possible while cure is not.”

As a further rule of thumb, avoid replying to any commercial messages that do not originate from a WASPA member: “Those from our members will include prominent opt-out or unsubscribe details as well as the contact number for the member. As with unsolicited email from unfamiliar senders, cellphone users need to treat SMS and MMS messages from unfamiliar sources with suspicion,” he concludes.