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Thursday 29/08/02Naughty Moby Monkey! But what a scam -- bulk send a load of SMSs saying that you've won a valuable prize, channel the replies through a £1.

Thursday 29/08/02
Naughty Moby Monkey! But what a scam -- bulk send a load of SMSs saying that you've won a valuable prize, channel the replies through a £1.50 a minute premium number, and bingo. I've seen the sums: you can net many tens of thousands of pounds pure profit in a week through this sort of thing, and I'd be surprised if the £50,000 fine levied by the watchdog is ever paid.

In a way, it's no worse than the flimsy scratch-and-win game cards that fall out of magazines by the million. I don't know whether the prizes on offer ever come close to justifying the money spent by people phoning up to claim, but there must be enough people regularly going in for them to keep the printing presses going. And that isn't any worse than the quid-up-front scratchcard lottery games: I can't quite see the point, but then I get my cheap and pointless thrills in other ways.

Presumably Moby Monkey -- and hasn't it been fun hearing the newsreaders on Radio 4 trying to say that company name without giggling -- would have got away with it if it had been slightly less parsimonious with the prizes, which were nowhere near as nice as described. If only they'd waited a little until picture messaging phones were commonplace. Then they could just have offered high quality porn as a prize, thus combining two illicit thrills with the well-known safeguard that no consumer of naughty pictures ever feels quite confident enough to complain to the authorities when they get ripped off.

But I fear that where Moby Monkey has blazed a path, others will follow. If I had a bit of seed capital to spend, I'd be looking at a premium rate combined ISP and mobile phone service that guaranteed no spam on either route. It would cost however much it cost to actually provide such a service, but in two or three years' time people will be desperate to pay whatever they have to pay.

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