by Ha Nguyen
The text message told Luong Van Anh that he had just won a huge sum gambling.
"Go to this address", the sender wrote. "I'll meet you there and give you your winnings."
When Anh's wife saw the message, she got furious. She'd never thought of her husband as a gambler; now, she shouted at him, yelling that gambling wasn't a game. He could lose their house! He could bankrupt their family!
Anh told his wife again and again that the message was spam and that he knew nothing about gambling, but she didn't believe him.
His network administrator had to step in before she finally understood the situation.
Text messages (also known as SMS) are a popular way to exchange information quickly and efficiently.
But many of the billions of messages exchanged every day are sent by companies that promote their goods and special offers by sending thousands of messages each hour.
"Spam is increasing and comes in many forms, making it hard for authorities to deal with it," said Dr Vu Quoc Khanh from the Ministry of Information and Commu-nications.
For Ngo Duc Tuan from Thanh Luong Ward, Hai Ba Trung District, Ha Noi, spam played a destructive role in his marriage.
Late at night, he received the message: "I miss you so much! I've been wanting to call you for so long, but I'm afraid of your wife. Please call me back!"
His wife shook him awake angrily.
Although he tried to deny that he was having an affair, he continued to receive these messages. His wife eventually petitioned him for a divorce.
"Services and network administrators receive profits from the increase in spam," explained Nguyen Thi Thanh Huyen from the Ministry of Information and Commu-nications's Department for Radio and TV Broadcast and Email Message Management.
To avoid getting spam, she said, don't put your mobile phone number on the Internet. And when you buy goods, ask companies not to send you advertisements.
Housewife Duong Thi Hien, in the central province of Nghe An's Quynh Luu District, said she didn't know why she was receiving so much spam - until she remembered that she had given her phone number to a supermarket where she had made some purchases.
Almost all the messages she receives are advertisements for promotions, which are much cheaper for companies to send as mass text messages than to broadcast on TV.
Many mobile phone users make themselves vulnerable to spam in other ways without realising it.
Le Van Bien in Ha Noi's Thanh Luong Ward said his son often downloaded games from an unofficial website to his mobile phone because the prices were cheaper than from an official website.
But this also made him vulnerable to spam messages.
When receiving spam, users should not reply to the sender or follow their advice.
"If you receive a lot of spam, tell agencies in charge by sending the offending messages to the number 456, which is free to text, for help," Hien advised. — VNS