► Had the firm been operating in Britain, it would have been fined for the 5,00,000 spam texts
December 10, 2012
A Pune-based company has been uncovered as a major source of spam text messages and unwanted calls in the United Kingdom. Jayessh Shah, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Vinayak Infotech and Telecommunications Solutions (Vintels) is alleged to be the man behind 5,00,000 unwanted text messages sent every day to Britons.
Had Shah been operating in the UK, his company would have been shut down and heavily fined under the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR). Instead, Shah makes £7.50 for every reply received to the messages sent. Shah made this claim to an undercover reporter of the Mail on Sunday which broke the story in the UK on Sunday.
Two similar British companies were recently fined £440,000 for sending spam text messages. Shah’s business model reflects the globalised economy by virtue of which a Pune-based company using servers in the USA sends text messages through its Goa offices to unsuspecting people in the UK. Mobile numbers in the UK are all of 11 digits and start with 07, making it comparatively easy to send spam text messages.
More than two million Britons are estimated to have been sold Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) without full information from banks. People take out PPIs to ensure that loans they have taken out are serviced in case they die, lose their jobs or are unable to work. In the UK, people have been sold policies without taking into consideration their different needs, circumstances and eligibility conditions.
This means they were given insufficient information or were misled into buying PPI that was not suitable for them, making such consumers eligible for refund/ compensation from banks. Sensing a large market, several claims management companies (CMC) are on the constant lookout for such victims to earn commission.
It is here that Jayessh Shah and his company play an important role by selling numbers that respond to their text to CMC for a hefty sum. A typical text reads: Records indicate you may be entitled to circa £2650 in compensation from the misselling of PPI on credit cards or loans. For info reply PPI or to opt out stop. The moment a person replies ‘PPI’ or even ‘stop’, it confirms that the number is active and fetches money from CMCs. The Mail on Sunday reporter contacted Vintel posing as a company representative and fixed a meeting with Shah.
A deal was struck for £1,800 in return for 2000 numbers that had already been sold to a CMC before. Shah said that he has made millions in the last seven years. According to Shah, he has a database of 1.6 million people who have replied positively to his spam text messages. This reporter called Shah’s number in India and also sent him a text but received no response.
Meanwhile, victims of these text messages are becoming increasingly harassed. Colonel Mukul Verma (Retd) who lives in central London has been bombarded with spam text messages regarding PPI claims. “I receive SMSes regarding PPI claims every other day. It is very annoying and disturbs me no end. I have discovered that the best response is to ignore them and not even respond with the ‘stop’ option.”
| ► I receive SMSes regarding PPI claims every other day. It is very annoying and disturbs me no end |
- Colonel Mukul Verma (RETD), Who lives in central London