Last night I got home to find an envelope addressed to me. I could see that it was from a financial service provider that I have never contacted for queries or services.

Usually I just bin junk mail without giving it a second thought, but since this specific company has been smsing me for months, I was curious to see just how much of my information they have.

You see, after receiving dozens of unsolicited messages daily, from a variety of financial institutions, insurance companies and even fashion retailers, I’ve seriously gotten fed up. I know I haven’t given anyone permission to market to me directly, so this means they got my details through nefarious means.

My colleagues at News24 heard me complain about it this morning, and brought the following article under my attention. It’s a great piece which explains our rights under the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPI). You see, POPI deals with everything from unasked for marketing (including smses, emails and post) to identity theft.

In a nutshell: unsolicited marketing is unlawful and you can demand to know which source gave your private information to the organisation that sent the unwanted communication. If they do not release this information, they can be held liable and there is even a prison sentence for up to two years for those who don’t comply within a reasonable amount of time.*

See what your rights are here.

Anyway, I opened the letter – which was sent to me personally, to my home address – and what did I see? A dummy cheque for R200 000 made out to me.

I am not financially naïve, but what if I were? And while I’m not exactly rolling in it, I am not as desperate as so many other people in this country are. What if I was about to get evicted from my house? What if my child’s school fees were due and I had no way to pay it?

Is it fair to tempt people to enter into crippling debt – with a fake cheque, no less! – when they have not indicated that they want that type of marketing? Is it fair to peddle loans to unsuspecting people who never asked for this type of communication? And is it fair to use people’s desperation and give them fake hope in the form of a phony cheque to get them as your clients?

I don’t think so, what about you?

P.S. I have just gotten off the phone with the company that has been hounding me, and I am waiting for someone to get back to me and please explain. But guess what? I got ANOTHER sms. While I was on the phone with them!

*Since I wrote this article I spoke to a representative of the company that was pestering me. According to my source, what they are doing is not illegal, because while the law has been passed, no commencement date has been set. Companies can't be forced to comply with POPI until a commencement date has been set.

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