You can stop sales calls and messages in minutes: how to opt out of marketing calls and complain about spam SMS

Business Insider SA
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  • South Africans get a lot of sales calls – and scam SMSes are all too common.
  • But you can stop a large percentage of those calls, and get the people sending those messages in trouble, with not a lot of work
  • Here's how.
  • For more stories go to the Business Insider South Africa homepage.

South Africans are among the most spammed cell phone users in the world.

According to research by mobile anti-spam app Truecaller, SA is ranked fourth in the world for "nuisance and unsolicited calls”. Only Brazil, India and Chile fare worse than South Africa for unwanted calls and text messages.

At least 49% of these spam calls in 2018 were scams. But the remaining 51% fell under some form of marketing spam.

Although stopping scams remains largely in the hands of the South African Police Service (SAPS), annoying marketing calls are generally easier to stop - provided they originate from a vaguely reputable source.

That’s because South Africa has a national direct marketing opt-out database, and a comprehensive procedure for lodging complaints against most major telecommunication role-players.

Although it’s not foolproof, you only need complete a few quick online forms to put an end to a large percentage of the barrage of spam and unsolicited marketing calls.

Here's how to stop spam calls, and (hopefully) get scammers in trouble.

Register on the DMASA’s Do Not Contact list

Direct marketing relies heavily on spam to get its messages out to the general public. It’s a broad term, but one that’s explicitly defined in the Consumer Protection Act. Also in that law is a requirement for companies to abide by opt-out and anti-spam measures.

One of the best ways to tap into the power of the CPA’s anti-spam mandates is to add your name to the Direct Marketing Association’s national opt out database.

By registering with the DMASA you will, in theory, no longer be contacted by its more than 250 members, making up some of the biggest companies – with the biggest marketing budgets – in SA.

The registration process is quick, but in order for it to be effective it does require that you trust DMASA with your contact details.

After submitting the form, it will take approximately six weeks for the calls and SMSs from these members to stop.

This is a blanket opt out of all marketing correspondence from these members. Although you can grant permission to specific industries to remain in marketing contact, there’s no option to select individual companies you’d like to continue hearing from.

Opt-out registration also only lasts for three years, so early adopters who have noticed a recurrence of spam may need to reregister.

File complaints with Waspa

South Africa also has an organisation for companies that operate in the mobile and telecommunications space. It’s called the Wireless Application Service Providers’ Association, or Waspa, and it’s a self-regulatory body with over 400 members.

Waspa members must abide by a code of conduct. Included in this are expectations with regards to direct marketing and spam.

Specifically, members of Waspa are only allowed to contact individuals if he or she is already a customer of that company, or has explicitly opted in to receive such correspondence.

The bulk of complaints to Waspa relate to SMS spam, and all members are required to abide by their rules in this regard.

A critical rule requires that all Waspa members abide by STOP requests. So if you’re receiving annoying SMS spam from a Waspa member, you may want to try replying to messages with the word “STOP”. The reply is free, and all members must automatically abide by the opt out request.

If this doesn’t work, it’s possible to lodge a formal complaint. There’s a form for general complaints about Waspa companies. But if you are particularly frustrated with SMS spam and scams, there’s a unique form for that.

If you identify a Waspa member in the complaint form, you can also request to be removed from that company’s database. The form takes less than a minute to complete and works well - provided the spammer is a member of the association.

Dealing with scams

Although Waspa and DMASA complaints deal primarily with over zealous, but legitimate, companies eager to sell products to their marketing databases, about 50% of spam in South Africa is a direct attempt to scam mobile users.

Although you can report scam attempts to Waspa, they cannot necessarily investigate them to the full extent of the law.

In the case of serious scams, it may be worth reporting the incident to the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services, which operates a cyber security hub for reporting phishing attempts, malware, vulnerabilities, and scams.

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