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Computer Privacy Annoyances by Dan Tynan

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CELL PHONES

Spam to Go

The Annoyance:

I just received a text ad for a cheap home mortgage on my cell phone. Not only am I receiving ads I don’t want, I’m being forced to pay for them! What can I do to stop cell phone spam?

The Fix:

Unsolicited ads sent via cell phone text messaging services has been an unpleasant fact of life in Japan and Europe for a few years, and it could become a big problem for the United States’ 165 million cell phone owners. The CAN SPAM Act of 2003 authorized the FCC to look into methods for stopping phone spam; in February 2005, the agency published a list of wireless domains to which spammers were forbidden to send commercial text messages without a customer’s permission. (For more info, see http://ftp.fcc.gov/cgb/policy/canspam.html.) But given the miniscule impact CAN SPAM has had on our email inboxes, don’t expect much relief from the FCC ruling.

The practical step is to call your wireless provider to register a complaint; many will simply take the spam messaging charges off your bill, says John Walls, VP of public affairs for the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (CTIA). He adds that major wireless carriers are aware of the problem and actively filter out most spam messages before they reach customers. While you’re at it, be sure to file a complaint with the FCC at http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/complaints.html or call them at (888)225-5322.

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