Cell phone spam

I’ve never been tempted to get text messaging on my cell phone, and after reading this story, I’m even less inclined to do so.

Although few customers are receiving cell phone spam now, experts predict the onslaught will multiply to e-mail-sized proportions. Efforts to regulate spam thus far have been weak at best, and there is very little consumers can do to protect themselves.

Last week, cell phones were added to the Texas No Call list, with telemarketing companies held to the list’s rules beginning March 2004. But many consumer advocates already criticize the current list because it has too many loopholes, enforcement is weak and the drawn-out process for handling complaints tilts too far in favor of telemarketers.

Regulators say the number of complaints has been hard to track because the problem is relatively new. But complaints have been increasing, as “texting” has become more popular.

“We’re hearing more about it,” said Rosemary Kimball, spokeswoman for the Federal Communications Commission.


Experts are drawing similarities between the growing popularity of texting and e-mail, and the similarities may soon include huge amounts of spam. Experts say consumers should be on the lookout for cell phone spam.

“It’s a far better target for spammers than randomly generated e-mail addresses,” Chamberlain said.

Cell phone numbers are assigned in blocks of about 10,000 units, Chamberlain said, making it easier to predict existing numbers. For example, if someone’s last four digits were 1111, it is likely the same numbers would exist with the last four digits 1112, 1113 and so on, he said.

There are three ways to text message a cell phone: from another mobile phone, from a cell phone provider’s Web site, or by e-mail. It is possible spammers will incur no cost for sending the message, but consumers may be charged a few cents for receiving it.

“Unlike Internet spam, wireless phone spam comes with an annoying beep on your phone and a direct price tag,” said Janee Briesemeister, senior policy analyst with the Consumers Union in Austin. “Consumers aren’t just getting an annoying message they didn’t want, they are paying 10 cents for it.”

I need to sign up for the national no-call list, which I see allows you to include cell phone numbers as well. If there’s ever a national Do-Not-Send-Text-Messages list, I’ll sign up for that even if I don’t ever get text messaging on my cell phone.

I must confess, I don’t get Radley Balko’s objection to the national Do Not Call list. I’m sorry, but I consider my right to exclude whoever I want from my own home to be more valuable than MegaCorp’s right to interrupt my dinner. Yes, Caller ID helps, but not nearly as much as you might think. For one thing, most junk calls come in as “Caller Unknown”. I could ignore all of those calls, but unfortunately calls from my out-of-state parents also come in as “Caller Unknown”. I don’t want to have to make my folks start every call by talking to my machine in order to filter out sales calls. I agree with the commenter who says that this is the equivalent of putting up a “No Trespassing” sign. If that ain’t libertarian, then being libertarian ain’t worth squat.

UPDATE: Patrick points to this post which explains why the national do-not-call list ain’t all that. Rats!

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4 Responses to Cell phone spam

  1. William Hughes says:

    New York State had to add cell phones to its’ Do Not Call Registry after telemarketers started calling those lines. Time Warner Cable was the worst offender of note.

    I have absolutely no interest in text messaging, so that option’s out as well for these geniuses.

    Since I turn off my landline phone’s sound as well, all the telemarketers ever hear is my answering machine. I find it funny to come home to several messages that consist of a recorded voice stating: “We’ll be with you shortly”. I guess not!

    As far as family and friends are concerned, they will either leave a message or I will call them.

  2. The good thing about not being libertarian is that I can support restrictions on telemarketing on the simple basis that it’s uncivil. And nobody has a ‘right’ to spam my e-mail box, call me if I didn’t ask them to, or send me ads on my cell phone. It’s a method of expression that’s particularly odious and clearly not protected by the First Amendment.

  3. Amy says:

    I just took a look at the post you pointed to on why the list isn’t all that hot. What in the world do they expect a no-call list to accomplish that excludes long distance companies and banks from the rules? Geez, that’s who all of my telemarketing calls come from.

    As for the arguments about how this hurts the businesses…since when was I responsible for making sure businesses do well? It’s their job to sell their products, not my job to be subjected to interruptioin in my home.

  4. I guess there are libertarians hollering “free speech” whenever spam comes up, but I think they’re quite wrong. E-mail spam, junk faxes, and telemarketers all cost the recipient something. I don’t think other people have a free speech right that goes into my wallet.

    The right to free speech doesn’t guarantee one an audience.

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