Get Rich or Die Trying - Bulgarian TV Show Scams Assisted by Mobile Operators
Texting was the hype when I was in high school.
Being able to text fast was one of the skills by which you could tell cool kids from uncool ones.
А classmate turned into a butt of haunting jokes because she would type with her index fingers only, cell phone lying on the table.
Today, however, I see short text messages as something along the scale from annoying to alarming.
My phone is beeping for one of two reasons – I got bills to pay, or I got people who will not be able to make it for an appointment, with or without good reasons.
Make that one of three reasons.
I started getting messages telling me that "the computer has just singled you out to win BGN 50 000, plus another BGN 1 M in store, if you send a FREE message/call to short code something-something-something".
I learned that the harassment had been triggered by a TV game called "Turn Millionaire."
Invitations started arriving every other day, meaning that I began to resent my handset even more intensely.
To people of sound mind it is clear that there is no money out there waiting for them to claim it.
There are, however, people at vulnerable ages or in vulnerable conditions.
To illustrate the point, a friend of mine has a grandmother who keeps chastising her for "wasting" her chances to get rich through the TV game, which is being organized by "mobile operators willing to hand out portions of their profits to attract new customers."
If it is not a grandmother, it will be a child that will respond to the sms hoax, thereby incurring costs plus annoyance.
The state owes these people protection!
What it has offered so far are yet-again belated vows for penalties, which will by all accounts amount to a mortifyingly low percentage of the fraudsters' revenues.
It is now up to the court, as invited by the domestic consumer protection authority, to determine the penalty for advertising "game" participation as free to millions of people, all the while charging BGN 2.40 per button click.
It is also up to the personal data protection authority to say if telecom operators had the right to sell their database of cell phone numbers to third parties, in this case, fraudsters, and if not, how much they should pay for this abuse and how it can be prevented in the future.
Until anybody in charge speaks up, take care to warn the people around you that, rather than getting rich, they can only get poor through interactive TV games.
And, as the Bulgarian saying goes, "armor yourself with patience" and pray that the beeping stops.
Well written Irina, this is just the sort of journalism Bulgaria needs, crusading. Please don't stop on this one and get it in print as well. Bulgaria needs champions of the press to root out corruption and OC and go for it with all guns blazing. Make sure you keep right and honesty on your side and use your written word responsibly and you could be in the vanguard. Well done, keep it up and don't rest until you have nailed this gang. of fraudsters.