If you are like the millions of South Africans with a phone, you have probably received an SMS advertising some “amazing” service. These “services” usually come at an exorbitant daily fee – upwards of R3 a day – and can be the culprit behind what’s taking your airtime.
Even if there’s no daily or weekly charge, you may be surprised that the USSD numbers you’re dialling to enter a competition have spectacularly high rates. Nevertheless, if your airtime is depleting without warning, it could be WASP stealing your airtime. Below you will find out how to determine if it’s WASP and what to do about it.
What is WASP?
Wireless Application Service Providers (WASP) are companies that render services like USSD, bulk SMS, and MMS in addition to interactive voice response services. These WASPs allow mobile carriers and other companies to create interactive services that don’t require data to access, making it available on all cell phones, not just smartphones.
How To Check if WASP is Stealing Your Airtime
Before you decide that WASP is to blame for your suspiciously high bill or the reason why you never have airtime, consider some alternative potential airtime thieves. This could include out-of-bundle usage from apps running in the background and sending messages to premium-rate numbers. But, if you still suspect it’s WASP, there are a few ways you can be 100% sure.
Call Your Mobile Carrier
Start by calling your mobile carrier. Then once you’ve gotten through to the call centre, ask them what is taking your airtime, if it’s data charges, WASP, or something else.
You can also ask them if there’s a company charging you and if they have the name of the company and the contact details.
If the reason your airtime is depleted is WASP-related, you can also ask them to cancel any subscriptions while you’re on the phone call. Be sure you receive an SMS confirmation informing you that your subscription has been cancelled.
Check Your SMS History
If you don’t want to call your mobile carrier, you can also complete this DIY process. Click on the search bar in your SMS app and search for the term “welcome,” as WASP-related content will often send a welcome message after you’ve joined the subscription service. Alternatively, you can search for terms like “subscription.”
While you’re searching, pay close attention to the services you’ve – unknowingly – signed up for and if there are any instructions on how to cancel your subscription.
If nothing pops up, someone who may have had the number you have now, before, may have signed up to WASP services. In which case, you can still cancel your subscription using the guide below.
How To Unsubscribe From WASP
Once you have confirmed that it’s WASP services taking your airtime, you can follow the instructions below to unsubscribe from WASP. The steps outlined depend on the network you use.
On Vodacom, SMS “Stop All” to 31050. If you have unintentionally been subscribed to any WASP products, you will receive a message confirming that you have been unsubscribed from any services.
Given that SMSing 31050 is a premium service, you can also dial *135# and select option 11 (Next) and then option 4 (Services). From there, you will need to select no.9 to cancel your subscriptions.
To unsubscribe from WASP services on MTN, you need to dial *141*5#. Select option 2 (content services), then click on manage content services, follow the prompts to cancel subscriptions.
To unsubscribe from WASP, you can dial *133*1# as this will block future and current billing.
To unsubscribe from WASP products on Telkom, you will either need to use the app or contact Telkom.
Using the app, you can block all WASP products. Begin by navigating to My Products, then click on Manage, and select Protect My Number, and set it to “on.”
Alternatively, you can call 180 and follow the prompts.
How To Ensure You’re Not A Victim of WASP Again
Even after you’ve taken measures to stop being a victim of this airtime thief, unsurprisingly, you could still receive ads from your service provider promoting some type of service to you, whether that’s WhatsApp status ideas, Bible verses, or financial advice.
And since these ads come from different numbers each time, blocking the number isn’t an option.
Block Specific Words
If you begin to notice a pattern in the messages you receive, like a number you should dial or a unique phrase, consider blocking those words. This way, you guarantee that you do not filter necessary text messages as a result.
For example, you could block “/day” as many messages end with the subscription amount or the term “CONGRATS” as these are frequently used by these pesky advertisers.
Be Sure You Share Information with Other Phone Users
If a child or elderly relative uses the phone, make them aware of these advertising schemes. Since some of these messages don’t advertise the costs involved, encourage them to not participate in any SMS advertising as it could be WASP related, especially ads offering prizes or text-based services.
Lodge a Complaint
Many WASP services have registered to WASPA, an association designed to keep the industry accountable and transparent. If you suspect that the WASP services you have subscribed to are non-compliant, start by reviewing WASPA’s code of conduct. If it is confirmed that the WASP services are non-compliant, you should consider lodging a complaint with WASPA. While this may not block future billing, it may assist in getting a refund or ensuring appropriate action is taken against the service provider. However, keep in mind, this is a voluntary association which means not every WASP has a membership.
Of course, if it’s not WASP, you should consider purchasing data bundles and turning off out-of-bundle usage. That way, instead of your phone using airtime when you’re out of data, you will be forced to purchase more data. This works well whether you’re on a contract or prepaid service.