AfriForum SMS Spam a Scam? General Nonsense 05 SEP 2014

I received this delightful gem in my SMS inbox yesterday:

AfriForum spreek beweerde bedrog aan by Elandsbaai Vismark. Ons kort ALMAL se hulp. SMS jou naam na 45265 (R1) of STOP om te staak.

This isn’t the first SMS message I’ve received from AfriForum in recent weeks mind you, though that said, I have no idea if this is indeed the work of AfriForum at all!

It’s probably best to begin with the fact that I have no affiliation to the group whatsoever – they appear to be an Afrikaaner non-profit rights group that seem particularly keen on bringing to light corruption, especially when it affects Afrikaaners. Now I’m not particularly fond of activist groups composed around a particular aspect like language, ethnicity, demographic or religion, which in turn means that I am VERY much sure that I’ve never previously interacted with the group whatsoever, hence the particular dislike for this spam that keeps hitting my SMS inbox. (The Democratic Alliance (DA) spam is at least tolerable, annoying make no mistake, but tolerable, purely because I at least vote for the party so therefore I can expect them to have my details on file).

Anyway, I’m getting sidetracked. My question is simple, is the AfriForum SMS simply spam or a more insidious scam?

Why? Well the use of a premium rated shortcode bothers me here. The minute a premium rated shortcode comes into play then you know that somewhere, someone is making money. If the premium rate was high, let’s say R10 or R20, then it feels like a donation drive and as such you can be pretty sure to find some news around the campaign somewhere in the media, thus validating it. If you don’t, well then it is probably scam and you should definitely not be responding to it.

However, at such a low premium rated number, based on the percentage split that the initiating party receives for an incoming SMS, it becomes very difficult to make a large amount of money unless you are guaranteed a very large reply base, which then raises the question, why use a premium rated shortcode at all? I work in this industry so I know how easy it is to set up a shortcode that can make me a few bucks in just a handful of minutes. Who is to say that this isn’t exactly what is going on here? If AfriForum did indeed set this up, then they need to publicize it in the media in order to let the public know it is legitimate. Searching on their website or on Google turns up nothing regarding Elandsbaai + AfriForum, which means that I have to infer that this could quite possible be a scam and that somewhere, someone is hoping to line their pockets with a little bit of Afrikaaner coin.

So AfriForum, scam or not?

sms message received on a mobile phone otherwise known as a cellphone

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About Craig Lotter

Software developer, husband and dad to two little girls. Writer behind An Exploring South African. I don’t have time for myself any more.

  • Henri Venter

    This number is still circulating on social media for various purposes. Most recently it was said that sending an SMS will count as a vote towards their goal of getting 400k votes to stop farm murder, by appealing to the HRC at the United Nations.

    My own search for proof that this is a legitimate campaign turned up short. Nothing from official sources at all.

    • I also searched for it now with that farm murder campaign. I searched the term “45353 SMS” and found links to the Afriforum website about previous campaigns against crime in the past. So they clearly reusing the number and seeing as the SMS only asks for name and no specification, I’m assuming they don’t really intend on sending the list to the United Nations, but they creating a database for themselves.

      At least we know it’s really from Afriforum

      • Henri Venter

        Hey Cyrus,

        Thanks for the reply!

        So we know that short code WAS used by Afriforum in the past, sure. I doubt that’s a guarantee that they are still in possession of it though, as all references to it are more than 3 years old.

        -Henri

        • You make a good point.

        • Joe Spek

          From their Facebook:

          “Please be aware that the WhatsApp message has been sent out by an unknown individual. It is however based on an SMS that AfriForum sent out in 2015, when we did hand over a report on farm murders to the UN. As such, the SMS number that is mentioned in the WhatsApp message is actually one of our SMS numbers and the reply did come from our system.

          Your votes have been registered on our systems and will be used for future campaigns.

          Kind regards.”

          • Henri Venter

            Nice find. Thank you!

          • Ann Ingram

            Hi Joe, so do both numbers (45354 and 32534) still belong to Afriform?

          • Joe Spek

            This message from their Facebook was about the “45353” number. I don’t know about the other one but I would think it is also still active.