Selling Sex Via SMS In Kuwait

A short text message sent to local mobile phone users offers what seems to be sexual services - or at least sex talk - over the phone. How did such a service get the numbers of people in Kuwait? What are telecom firms doing to block such unsavory advertisers? Dozens of people in Kuwait recently received this SMS message in Arabic: "Hi! I'm Muneera, call me and I will make you happy and satisfied." This message was sent to subscribers of only one telecommunications provider in Kuwait. The messages came from another Arab country. Needless to say, the services 'Muneera' seems to be offering are illegal in Kuwait.

SMS is a convenient and cheap means of advertising. Its direct to the targeted audience, highly likely to be read and if crafted well, sure to catch the attention of the mobile phone user. SMS ads also cost less than making cold calls to sell products. Many department stores, hotels and other service providers take the mobile numbers of their customers and send them SMS them about upcoming sales and promotions. Other companies buy lists of mobile numbers - either from a telecommunications firm or from a data list provider.

Many people are surprised when they receive promotional messages on their mobiles although they are not the customers of this company. Many simply delete the invasive SMS. But sometimes, this type of advertising can go too far. For an Arab Muslim country, pornographic messages or other services advertising sexual products are unacceptable.

Some of those who called 'Muneera' ended up with a KD 50 charge on their phone bill, this reporter has learned. Many others simply saw the SMS as offensive. "I'm married, and I'm not interested in such services or messages. I called the customer service department of the mobile provider, and complained. They promised they will work on banning such messages. I really didn't receive any more messages from this number, thus the customer service department didn't follow-up with me to see if I still do receive such messages or not," said 42 year old Kuwait resident Waleed.

Adults can suspect such weird and just delete them when receive. But what happens when a teen or even younger kids receive such messages?

According to a local telecommunications provider, the messages are being sent randomly. A customer service representative for the firm said "These swindlers are simply calling randomly any numbers. They know the international code, and then they only choose seven numbers randomly," the employee said. "We are working on this subject, and we hope we may definitely ban these messages from reaching our subscribers."

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