Filed Under: Markets, Telecoms and Media

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[Dave Birch] When I checked in to PayPal X "Innovate 2010" I was given a free "Bling Powered by PayPal" sticker with a free $10 on it to spend at local merchants (such as the diner round the corner). Hurrah!

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A helpful young chap explained to me that I had to text the sticker number to 78787 to activate it, so I did, and then I got this puzzling response.

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I showed it to the chap, and he explained to me that Bling and PayPal are discriminating against foreigners and that the short code only works if you have an American phone number: if you have an international phone number, you have to pay for you own breakfast at the diner! Fair enough: there is a bit of backlash against immigrants in the US at the moment. But they should have told me before I texted my Bling sticker number to a UK "dating" service. I just got this message…

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Unlike e-mail, there's no junk filter for text so I can't put this number onto a kill list or send the messages into junk mail automatically. I hope my wife is reading this.

Text is convenient, but it's not secure. You can intercept, spoof and forge text messages easily, so for anything other than low-value payments, text is not sufficient: it needs something else (in the Bling case, the text is not used for the payment, only to link the chip inside the sticker to a mobile phone number) to make it scaleable. If you add some security, however, text can be a terrific carrier. In a place where text messaging is used for payments — using a SIM toolkit application that encrypts and signs inside the SIM — things are going swimmingly. M-PESA now has .

Mobile telecoms firm, Safaricom, has deepened its foray into Kenya's financial services sector with the signing of a partnership deal will enable Safaricom's subscribers to use the M-Pesa service to buy goods from two of Kenya's leading retail chains… The telecoms company has signed similar deals with more than 300 utility companies – allowing consumers to use M-Pesa to settle their monthly bills including water, electricity, and insurance. M-Pesa subscribers can also use it to book flights with Kenya Airways, and pay for services at Sarova Hotels.

[From allAfrica.com: Kenya: Uchumi Clients to Buy Goods Using M-Pesa Mobile Money]

With more than twelve million users, M-PESA is transforming Kenyan society. At Mobile Money Transfer 2010 in Dubai today, the Safaricom CEO Michael Joseph said that there are now bars in Kenya that don't take cash any more: you can only pay with M-PESA. When the right payment system comes along at the right time it can change everything.

These opinions are my own (I think) and presented solely in my capacity as an interested member of the general public [posted with ecto]

One thought on “Unprotected text”

  1. alistair.gates@gmail.com' Alistair says:

    Texting STOP to the offending number should unsubscribe you and kill those unwanted messages…

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