It has become normal for mobile phone users in Nigeria to receive promotional text messages and unsolicited phone calls every day. The market must be quite huge. How else can I understand receiving more than ten messages daily?The adverts cover a wide vista—local news, foreign news, news in local languages, e-prayers (seriously?), inspirational messages, proverbs, quotes, hints about every conceivable matter, and lots more.
I feel the senders of such messages—and the mobile network providers—must be making some good money. Else, they won’t keep sending such messages. Some Nigerians must be really gullible to believe that they can receive prayers by SMS from a pastor. I don’t care how highly placed any pastor is. I just can’t see any scriptural backing for this trend. The bulk of the other services offered, are services I don’t need, since I can always read (well explained) news articles online and search for any tips I may be interested in.
Ignoring the barrage of promotional messages has been my modus operandi. If I don’t subscribe, the service providers leave me alone; I’m happy, they’re happy (or so I think). I’ve heard people complain that they didn’t subscribe for a service but get charged weekly for it, via unexplained deductions each time they recharge. My take had been that they likely unknowingly sent an activation request or pressed a required button when the gently recorded voice—from the ubiquitous unsolicited phone calls—was booming into their ears, or that they replied a text message with the required subscription code. How wrong I was!
A strange number, 038299, called me this week. I assumed it was one of the usual promotional bullshit. However, I followed my usual policy of picking such calls and ending them after a few seconds. The recorded message would normally tell you to press a certain button (mostly 1) to subscribe to whatever service was being advertised. The number I pressed was definitely not 1; it was the end button. The life-saving red button.
Immediately I ended the call, I received an SMS:
“Request for activation of LOVE is received & will be processed as soon as charging is success.Dial 38299 for more.To stop sevice send STOP to 38299”
Note: I have reproduced the message verbatim—words, spaces, punctuation.
I was bewildered. When did I request activation? Did my ending the call transcribe to a subscription request? I was so happy that I didn’t have sufficient airtime on that line. That would’ve sealed the deal.
I quickly sent STOP to 38299.
“The following service(s) are active: 1. LOVE (STOP LOVE TIPS) To stop service(s) send your option. e.g. To stop LOVE send to 38299”
I sent the required reply, and finally received:
“Requested LOVE service is deactivated. For more services dial 38299 or *382#.We treasure being of service to you”
Yeah! I treasure being deactivated from them.
I wonder how many unsuspecting Nigerians who do not check their text messages (I know one person in this category), or do not understand the clearly written English sentences in the activation messages, have been hoodwinked by these service providers. Phone users would get charged each week for services that they didn’t request and that are of no use to them.
Immediately after deactivating the service, I received a call from the same number. I didn’t bother picking it; the lesson learnt was still fresh in my mind. When next I receive a phone call from a hyper-strange number, I’ll be sure to press the end button before the call even starts.