Cashing in on the rise in cellphone subscribers

THE number of mobile phone users in China has grown to 344 million, nearly 16 times that of the entire Malaysian population. 

For short messaging services (SMS) traffic alone, it reached 43.2 billion pieces in the first two months of the year.  

This is the largest cellphone subscriber base in the world, opening up lots of business opportunities.  

In fact, not only are the business enterprises eyeing a share of this big pie, crooks and the unscrupulous are also slavering when they think of such a big pool of potential targets.  

Mobile phone users here have been warned to be careful when they receive messages from unfamiliar numbers to avoid being charged for unwanted mobile phone content services.  

Their nightmare usually begins when they reply to SMS like “Hi, how have you been lately?” or “I need money now. Please pay back the 500 yuan that you owe me” from people they do not know.  

Out of curiosity, they reply and unwittingly subscribe to services like ringtones and screensavers provided by mobile content providers with improper business practices. 

According to a survey done by China Central Television (CCTV), the country’s largest national TV network, most of these subscribers seldom clarify with their mobile service company or terminate the services that keep on sending them junk messages because they feel that a few yuan a month is not a big sum and is not worth the trouble.  

However, some are not that fortunate and pay much more for their curiosity or greed. 

According to a farmer who talked about his experience on CCTV, he received an SMS informing him that he had won a prize of one million yuan. He was instructed to deposit 800 yuan into a bank account as a registration fee and then to call a company for further information. 

Thinking that Lady Luck had finally smiled on him, the elated farmer did as instructed. When he called the company, the voice on the other end demanded a bigger sum.  

The farmer became suspicious and reluctantly reported the matter to the police.  

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