A effects of a hoax chain e-mail that could damage the MTN brand have been minimised thanks to prompt action by the cellular network and its e-mail security provider, Synaq.
The hoax e-mail, which promises recipients a free mobile phone as part of an MTN "brand promotion" if they forward the mail to eight to 20 people and MTN, has been circulating on the Internet for some time. Initially, it spread quickly, resulting in MTN being bombarded by e-mails on a daily basis from hopeful consumers.
When the hoax email first started circulating, MTN took immediate action, placing print and radio advertisements warning the public about the hoax and distancing itself from any such "promotion".
However, while the number of response e-mails received by MTN has declined, the hoax message continues to circulate.
"Fortunately, we have been able to prevent the vast majority of these e-mails from reaching and overloading MTN's e-mail servers," says Synaq CEO Yossi
"However, the problem facing MTN goes beyond merely blocking these e-mails. The potential damage to MTN's brand from disgruntled consumers who expected to receive the 'promised' free cellphone is considerable."
Rather than merely blocking and destroying the e-mails, Synaq ensures that the sender of every hoax-response e-mail receives an automated reply that explains the hoax and apologises, on MTN's behalf, for any inconvenience caused.
According to Hasson, this is technically extremely difficult to do as every sender is different, but the system decides what action to take on every e-mail based on keywords. In the case of keywords that relate to the hoax, the automated reply is sent.
"At the height of the hoax, we were sending out over 30 000 responses every day, without impacting on MTN's e-mail network. We continue to deal promptly with the responses to the hoax as they are received," Hasson adds.