Payphones in Thailand

Unsolicited calls are a problem right across Asia. Source: Shutterstock

Malaysians really not interested in hearing about your ‘unique offers’

SPAM or unsolicited calls are one of the scourges of modern society — or a first-world problem, if you wish to put a positive spin on the issue.

Malaysia is no different from any other country in that it does suffer from the problem, but spam calls are a bigger nuisance in that country than some of its neighbors, a survey has revealed.

Caller ID and spam detection app creator, Truecaller surveyed their users, and found that the average Malaysian receives seven spam calls each month.

Clearly, those poor souls afflicted with a lot of spam (isn’t any number of unsolicited calls too many?) would be more likely than most to install an app designed to head unwanted callers off. But nevertheless, the company’s findings make interesting reading — despite the undoubted commercial slant to any such insights.

For comparison, Singaporeans get four spam calls each month, and the lucky Thais only have their busy days interrupted but twice a month.

Truecaller collated its figures for one month between August 14 and Sept 14 this year. In that period, Malaysians received over one million unwanted commercial calls.

In order to identify the culprits, the company cross-referenced each call against a list of the top 100 spammers in each region for August.

Altogether, telemarketing, debt collection calls, and messages from finance companies formed the most guilty market segment. Financial companies are becoming renowned, it seems, for being Pest No. 1 for Malaysians, making 67 percent of nuisance calls.

Telemarketers’ queries came in at 13 percent of spam calls, with insurance providers at 9 percent and generic scams (proposing or offering illegal services) made up a further 6 percent.

Like several countries across the globe, there is in place a legislative structure that governs unwanted calls. Consumers in Malaysia are protected, as far as it goes: anyone can write (how very 20th century!) to a company which bothers them to ask it to cease and desist all further contact.

Companies who don’t comply face fines of up to RM200,000, and/or two years in jail.

However, like email spam, unless tactics like cold-calling unsuspecting Malaysians didn’t pay a profitable return, they wouldn’t be employed at all. And somewhere in the spammers’ business logic, there will no doubt be a careful weighing of the possible punishments threatened by law; any risk, it seems, is either nominal or worth suffering the consequences.

Until highly unpleasant punishments await anyone engaging in spam calling (suggestions gratefully received), the problem will no doubt continue.