Saturday, January 17, 2009


From 7 in the morning until 9 at night, my cell phone has been ringing off the hook. I didn't recognize a single one of the calls, but some of the area codes were familar. 402-593-7107 came out of Nebraska, 323-429-7564 was dialed from Los Angeles and 954-671-6946 originates in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. These weren't long lost friends, but telemarketers who have now started bombarding cell phones.

The National Do-Not-Call Improvement Act of 2007 allows Americans to put their phone numbers on a list that forces marketers to leave you alone. This service from the FTC was designed for home phones, but you CAN register your cell phone number, as I did after getting this barrage of unwanted calls.

Computer World magazine reported last week that The Center for Digital Democracy (CDD) and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), asking the agency to investigate what the groups claimed were escalating privacy threats posed to consumers by advertisers targeting mobile users.

In a 52-page complaint, the two groups claimed that advertisers had begun to migrate to the mobile world many of the same consumer data collection, profiling and behavioral targeting techniques that have already raised privacy concerns for online users.

A few years, an urban myth was going around urging all Americans to register their cell phone numbers because telemarketers were about to launch a nationwide calling blitz. Many debunking sites, like the popular SNOPES.COM poo-poo'ed these alarming rumors declaring the myth, "FALSE."

" Despite dire warnings about the imminent release of cell phone numbers to telemarketers that continue to be circulated via email year after year," SNOPES reported "users do not have to register their cell phone numbers with the national Do Not Call Registry before a soon to pass deadline to head off an onslaught of telemarketing calls."

It does not appear as if the phone companies are handing over your private cell phone numbers to marketers, but they have somehow found them. Blog sites are full of horror stories. To this end, in September, Verizon Wireless filed lawsuits against two companies charging that the firms made illegal telemarketing calls to more than a million Verizon cell phone customers.

Lawsuits were filed against Intelligent Alternatives, a Sorrento Valley, California marketing company and Resort Marketing Trends of Coral Springs, Florida. In its pair of lawsuits, Verizon noted that unsolicited marketing calls to wireless phones are prohibited by California and federal laws. Verizon's Jenny Weaver said, "The cost to the customer may have been negligible," but it's the invasion of privacy that we're really protecting our customers against."

I've received telemarketing calls from at least eight phone numbers. If you answer the call, you pay for it, unlike a home phone. One of the most frequent calls comes from Active Periodicals of Deefield Beach, Florida. They pitch magazine subscriptions, but listen to the horror story that one woman described on a consumer fraud site:

"One of their staff called me yesterday. I started to ask one more time that they quit calling me. I got so far as, "I've asked before that you stop calling me and." Click. The person hung up on me in the middle of their sentence. I called again, asking to speak to a customer service supervisor. She looked up my account, and I told her what happened. She told me that those calls don't come from customer service, but from their sales department, and she could tell them to stop calling me, but as until I've made my last payment, they'd keep calling whenever they wanted. When I told her that if they called me again, I'd have my bank stop making payments to them, she told me to go right ahead, and that they'd turn me over for collection and sue me. A real piece of work."

Unlike that woman, I never bought a magazine over the phone, but I wanted the calls to stop. So, I dialed them up. Some are answered by a recorded voice immediately instructing people they can take their number off the list by pushing "1" on their cell phone keypad. This, in and of itself, is an indication that the telemarketer is well aware of the cell phone intrusion. At sites designed to trace the origins of these phone calls, customers complain that even after pushing "1", the calls don't stop. In a few cases, a live person answered my calls. Try asking them who they are and why they keep bothering you and they hang up!

I no longer answer unfamiliar calls on my cell. Instead, I look up the number online to determine its origin. Once, I've identified the call, I save the number in my phone and give it a name, JUNK. I now have eight JUNK's on my phone. Then, I go into options and set the ring tone for SILENT. This way, I'll never know the call arrived. By the way, they NEVER leave a message.

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