Cellphone user confronts the problem of text spam
My introduction to cellphone solicitation recently arrived in the form of a note from "Roman. " It said, "Get software 80 % o.f.f. 9fast-secure-immediate download) visit:" and...
The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune
My introduction to cellphone solicitation recently arrived in the form of a note from "Roman."
It said, "Get software 80 % o.f.f. 9fast-secure-immediate download) visit:" and it listed a Web site that I wasn't even able to reach.
Clearly the note indicated trouble because I don't know anyone named Roman, and if I did, he probably wouldn't send me a text message written in such salesman-speak.
A few days later, "Rex" was offering me investment advice.
I decided it was time to figure out how to keep Rex, Roman and their solicitous friends out of my electronic universe. These messages were more than just an annoyance. Unlike telemarketing calls at home, these unsolicited cellular messages were costing me money since my cellular service plan charges for each message beyond a certain number.
It's against Federal Communications Commission rules for telemarketers to use automated dialers to call cellphones, but that brings me little comfort after the communications I've gotten from Roman and Rex.
Here's what I learned after talking to representatives of both the FCC and the Federal Trade Commission, the two agencies charged with enforcing the laws and protecting consumers in the electronic world. The FCC and FTC Web sites offer a trove of information on blocking unwanted phone calls and Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Market, or CAN-SPAM as it was termed in a 2003 law passed by Congress; the rules took effect in March 2005.
Putting your cellphone number on the national Do Not Call Registry will stop most but not all telemarketing calls. You can register free online at www.donotcall.gov or by dialing 888-382-1222 from the telephone you want to register.
It takes seconds and the registration will last five years. In 31 days most telemarketers are required to stop calling, according to the recording I accessed. Later, you can confirm that you are registered by dialing the same number or checking the Web site.
Still, the Do Not Call Registry doesn't equal Do Not Send Text Messages.
The FCC ban includes messages sent to cellphones and pagers only if the message uses an Internet address that includes an Internet domain name, generally that part with the "@" symbol.
The ban doesn't cover a couple of critical areas: short messages like those sent from one mobile phone to another that don't use an Internet address; and e-mail messages that you get forwarded from your computer to your wireless device.
Calls from or for political organizations, charities and telephone surveyors are still permitted, as are calls from companies with which you have an existing business relationship. Commercial e-mail messages to your wireless phone or pager are allowed only if you've given express prior authorization, according to the FCC. That's where you have to be careful. When ordering anything online, it's common for the box asking to receive "e-mail updates" to be prechecked. So be sure to find and uncheck that box before sending along your order.
Beyond that, the two federal agencies charged with policing the ban on making unsolicited phone calls say there is little that can be done about unwanted text messages.
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
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