Manila, June 21, 2003 by Patrick R. Garcia (STAR) Did you ever get those irritating e-mail spams that offer you cheap Viagra or maybe some get-rich scheme for just $14.95? Also, the same type of junk e-mail that dominates your mail storage limit?  Well, these fraudulent types of e-mail have been getting into everyoneís nerves in the US, that great support is now behind a bill at Capitol Hill that, if passed, would slap prison terms and million-dollar fines against bulk e-mail spammers. Giant ISPs like AOL, Microsoft, SBC Yahoo and Earthlink have all committed to support Congress in collaring these pests once the bill is passed. In the Philippines where Internet penetration rates are miniscule, a comparative area would be our wireless space. Have you ever been victimized by SMS spam?

I continuously hear some right-wing privacy advocates warning that spam via text message could be a bigger problem than e-mail spam. I, for one, receive on a weekly basis a good number of text message invites for product launches or bar parties. I would classify this as spam simply because the text is emanating from an unknown prepaid number. Aside from that, I hear of many cases where people also receive multiple text invites from unscrupulous content providers literally spamming subscribers without the carrierís authority. The carriers recently initiated a crackdown and this served to minimize this type of intrusion. Of course, I simply just erase all this spam to free up space in my 400-text message capacity inbox. For most mobile phone users though it becomes a huge inconvenience; the limited storage capacity of their mobile phones makes them unable to receive legitimate text messages. Besides being irritating, it feels like an invasion of oneís privacy, most especially since cellphones are a personal mode of contact.

I, for one, donít think the same catastrophic barrage of unsolicited marketing messages now plaguing e-mail accounts will ever be seen in our wireless space. The carriers have established firewalls on their networks that restrict the entry of most SMS messages from foreign gateway companies. As such, all SMS spam will only then be coming from within this country. If the spam message is coming from within the Philippines, then the carriers themselves may just as easily block its source. Also to reiterate this fact contrary to broad market belief, every text message has a corresponding cost. The days of free text messages are history, and I believe that this stands as a major factor in controlling mobile spam. I canít imagine someone bothering to spend a million pesos for load to spam a million people!

The proactive way then to prevent spam is to guard your cell number wisely. Provide your landline number instead whenever your contact info is asked. Furthermore, be wary of some free tone or logo websites. These sites are usually established specifically to harvest cellphone numbers.

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Patrick R. Garcia is managing director of Bidshot Wireless Services. For comments or suggestions, text your message to 233011 (Globe) or 2430018 (Smart), or e-mail

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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