"It has been discovered that some people have been accidentally donating money to a different charity than they intended by using the wrong SMS keyword. In the last few days, a lot of donations have been made to the Cancer Research UK charity, however some have accidentally been made to Unicef instead where mobile users sent a text with the message "DONATE" instead of "BEAT" to a specific shortcode.
Unicef has said, "We contacted Cancer Research [UK] as soon as we became aware of what was happening. Unicef and Cancer Research [UK] have agreed that these donations will be received in full by Cancer Research [UK]."
Even knowing which word to use didn't help some people as their smartphone auto-corrected "BEAT" to "BEAR", and they were subsequently sent information about adopting a polar bear from the WWF."
I agree, sending money this way is a terrible idea. Cell phone service providers should do only that: provide a cellular network interface connection and route the data. They shouldn't be acting as a payment processor for third parties, and should probably be legally barred from doing so.
Cell phone and internet providers are utilities. They should be heavily regulated as such.
You may not be aware of this, but in many African countries the mobile phone providers allow both transfer and withdrawal of pre-pay credit. In so doing they have effectively become a bank, but one that is accessible to everyone (with a cellphone). They are used all the time for transfers of small amounts of money (like send the wife 50c for the bus fare - you transfer the credit to her number and she withdraws it from the same places you can top-up). They provide an service that is absolutely vital in allowing economic growth among the poorer members of society by easing the transfer of money and allowing smaller enterprises to function. In many ways filling the niche that Internet banking and debit cards do in developed countries.
So this small amount of payment processing is just minuscule compared international norms....