Despite this warning from the New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs a couple of months ago, we haven't actually seen much in the way of Rugby World Cup-based SMS spam over the last few months. This is in contrast to other events like the Soccer World Cup, which received numerous amounts of related SMS spam.

However, these threats pale in comparison to the ‘Phone-Promo’ Scam, which is still going strong, with millions of SMSs containing variations of the below message sent to over a dozen countries over the last 3 years:

  • CONGRATULATION Your Mobile No. Has Won 415,000 Pounds in NOKIA UK MOBILE PROMO. Payment No.: NK-1015, For claims Email: xxxxxlondon.com &Call+44704574xxxx@

We've covered the compound threat nature of this before in an earlier GSIM report, but it’s worth thinking about the psychology as well. As opposed to trying to benefit from the emotive topical nature of a current event, this targets something more permanent and of more immediate value to a person – their phone. It’s a bit riskier from the spammer's perspective, as they don’t normally know what phone model the target has, but for many people their mobile device is one of the most important things they own, so straightaway there is an emotional connection if the person owns the same device as mentioned in the SMS. Additionally, as with all cases of SMS spam and as demonstrated in our earlier GSIM report, it is helped by the fact that people trust the mobile operator network and thus any SMS messages that they receive over it.

Probably the next question is, what’s being done about it? Well, at AdaptiveMobile we are working directly with several operators to prevent the spam being received, as well as sharing intelligence with the operator community through the GSM Association on how these messages are being sent.

There is of course nothing stopping the spammers combining the topics , for example we have seen NOKIA/World Cup competition spam. And, as for whether SMS spammers watch rugby, it’s probably fair to say that the emotional appeal of an event like the Rugby World Cup is not as strong in the target countries, for spammers to justify changing the content. However it’s a fairly safe bet that the 2012 Summer Olympics next year is a different story.