Reporters contacted with some of the numbers to find out more about their work.
One of the called men admitted he was a gay man who had not come out yet, and had instead done quite well financially through this basic form of advertising.
Son said he could earn between VND300,000-1,000,000 (USD14.2-47.6) a night.
Dung, another gay man in Dong Thap Province, said he didn’t intend to make money, he just wanted to make “friends”. Dung, 27, a gardener, said, “Once I travelled to Saigon, I wrote my number on a public toilet wall, wanting to find guys. The result was great. But I have never thought of earning money this way. I’m not a prostitute.”
Dung’s family don’t know that he is a gay. Every time he has the chance to travel to other provinces, Dung will write his phone number somewhere eye-catching to find new friends. But he still doesn’t want people living around him to know about his sexuality.
Men’s toilets in universities also display these advertisements.
However several of these numbers turned out to be practical jokes, with young female students the victims.
She said, “I’ve received lots of strange calls recently. These people said dirty words like I am a prostitute, which depressed me.”
Another victim we found was a man named Hoai. “I can’t sleep due to phone calls. Terrible messages haunted me. Once when I couldn’t delete the messages in time, my girlfriend read them and thought I was a gay and insisted on breaking up with me, and other students started rumours about me.”
Our last victim was a married woman, living in Ho Chi Minh City’s District 9. Her name and number were written on walls of bus stations and public toilets. “At midnight, I often receive phone calls coming from strange numbers, asking to be “served”. At first, I was shocked and thought they had made a mistake with the number, but so many other calls followed that I realised I was a victim of a dirty trick. My husband shouted at me a lot, but then luckily he understood the situation.”
This woman is a key figure in her company. She thinks it may be her company’s competitors who have attempted to blacken her name. Initially she didn’t want to change her number because she may lose contact with many of her potential customers. When sex-buyers called her, she asks where they have got her number from then hires people to paint over the place. But in the end she couldn’t cope with the frustration and changed her mobile number deal.
A cleaner at a bus station in HCMC said, “We often have to repaint these walls, but even before the paint has dried, there are new numbers written on”.
“We need our private lives to be protected. Society needs the authorities to ensure public order and security”, Hoai, a victim, said.
According to Vietnamese criminal law, when being prosecuted for offending other people’ honour, a criminal may be punished by warning, undergo a period of re-education, or face imprisonment from three months to three years.