Cellular Phone Spam

WesSalmon.com The personal ramblings of Wes Salmon

What is the Internet coming to?

What is the Internet coming to when I have to be more concerned with spam in my inbox than "l33t h4x0rs" or viruses bringing my system down? Case in point, last night before bed my phone beeps, I have an SMS waiting. This is odd in itself since I rarely get an SMS unless I'm at a trade show or other event where people are trying to catch up with me. I check the message, and low and behold ... it's spam, and not even well targeted spam since it's a message offering me a back-to-school loan. What made this one especially annoying is that SMS messages aren't free for the most part, I buy 'em in blocks and this SMS spam just directly cost me up to a dime! Sure a dime is chump change, but I'm a chump who doesn't like being advertised to at my own expense.

To compound my frustration, this morning before venturing out into the unbelievably crazy morning rush hour here in Seattle, (5 miles in 30 minutes, but that's another story entirely) I check my newly created Hotmail account that I plan to use for IM'ing at my new job. Guess what, more spam. Already I'm a marketing target and the email address is not even 12 hours old. I guess I'm partly to blame for using my name as the email, but what kind of crazy, mixed up Internet world are we living in where we have to disguise our own names just so we can have an email account void of "See Britney Spears nude!!!" messages in our inbox? I can't even USE my old hotmail account (4+ years old) due to all the p*rn spam I get since I'm sure even the subject lines would get me fired.


Posted by: Kalel on July 9, 2002 10:36 AM

you get 50 SMS for $5?! I get 100 per month with Cingular for $2.99 What service provider do you use for your phone?

Posted by: Kalel on July 9, 2002 10:38 AM

also with Cingular I could bump up my SMS messages to where I could get 250 per month for $5.99 or 500 for $9.99

Posted by: ronb on July 9, 2002 10:52 AM

We pay 2 cents per, no minimum charge.

Posted by: ronb on July 9, 2002 10:54 AM

Sorry, that's on my wife's phone. Mine are no cost to receive, but don't tell your spammer friend.

Posted by: ronb on July 9, 2002 11:19 AM

But to comment on the main point here ...

I had a similar situation when buying a new PC a year or so ago. Free MSN for a year at Best Buy. Picked a user name at the register. Get home, set up PC, log on and there is p*rn spam waiting for me.

What's it coming to? I really think this is going to be the death of the Internet as we have known it. I've read plenty of ideas on how spam might be dealt with. Most of the ideas plain aren't going to work. Can't legislate something if you can't enforce it from overseas. Can't charge for email unless EVERYONE, including overseas, charges. Anything that might work is going to split us off onto a separated sub-internet or require significant maintainence on the part of the user. It's too bad, really.

The only thing I can think of is if you use a private domain name, spammers will be less apt to find it. But that costs you extra and you make your email address that much harder for people to remember. As for SMS, the network is a lot more under control, and with fewer players. The providers will have to deal with it or people will churn.

Posted by: Wes on July 9, 2002 11:55 AM

Thanks for the comments guys, I'll have to check my bill to see what I'm currently paying for my SMS package. I'm with Cingular and when I signed up earlier this year, the deal included a $4.99 messaging package. It's possible I've been moved to a newer, cheaper SMS plan or that I'm still paying a premium because I haven't bothered to look. :)

On another note, did anyone who is subscribed to get notifications when I post an article (sign up on the front page if you missed it) get two copies of the notification email? I got two myself and I want to make sure the system isn't doubling up for some reason.

Posted by: Steve on July 9, 2002 12:48 PM

Re: Spam. Don't feel bad. I work for IBM and one of the hot items on the company intranet is how to deal with spam. Apparently some wise person listed the entire company directory on the IBM website a few years ago, thinking it would facilitate communications between potential customers and IBMers. What it did is open the entire company e-mail system to spam. They're able to filter a lot, but employees still get the occasional p*rn or commercial spam. Some folks are getting overloaded by it ... Sigh...

Posted by: PDA Gerbil on July 9, 2002 01:00 PM

You guys PAY to recieve SMS????? Weird. Here is the UK it's sender pays - a much better system. You phone, you pay, you SMS, you pay, fair really.

RE: 10 cents per SMS

Looking at Cingular's messaging pricing here:

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it would seem I'm getting the short end of the stick if I'm still paying $5 for 50 messages.

Reminds me of my good 'ol days with Sprint PCS (what am I talking about, I still have two phones with them. :( ) when you'd have to call in every few months to switch to the new, cheaper pricing plan to get more hours and goodies. The catch was every time you changed your plan, you committed to another year of service from that point forward. Sneaky dogs.

I'll call Cingular and get a better SMS plan if I don't already have it, besides I need to get GPRS up and running on my phone pronto.

Posted by: Michael Ducker on July 9, 2002 03:52 PM

I get 500 SMS messages for $2.99 extra from VoiceStream. That's on top of the 50 that are included.

Plus, receiving SMS on voicestream AFAIK is always free :)

Posted by: scottmag on July 9, 2002 03:55 PM

I don't want to open a can of worms here, but this is one area where the U.K. "caller/sender pays" system is far superior. Spam is absolutely destoying the Internet's "killer app" - email.

I just read a great article on spam and email filtering in the latest issue of TidBITS. Check it out here:

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I highly recommend it. (TidBITS itself is mainly Mac-focused, but I highly recommend it as well.)


Posted by: Wes on July 9, 2002 06:29 PM

RE #2: 10 cents per SMS

Ok so I've figured it out after looking at my bill and Cingular's offerings. I pay $4 a month to use my minutes as data minutes, then $2.99 for wireless messaging (100 messages apparently), with every message over my allotment costing me 10 cents. I knew I had a dime per message in there somewhere, just in the wrong place.

I've updated the story a little to reflect my confusion of my Cingular bill where even the itemizations are itemized. Now I see why I simply look at the total, and if it's near what I expected to pay, I pay it. I'm just the type of sheep .. err I mean consumer the phone companies love for this very reason.

So to conclude, this spam cost me 3 cents since I haven't used up my

100 messages, unless of course I get 50 free additional messages with my internet package, bringing the total cost to 2 cents. :)

Posted by: Shane on July 10, 2002 11:03 AM

I fixed my SMS message problem with getting spam. I'm a Voicestream customer so SNS messaging is included, but it eats into my minutes. I got a spam message once, and what I did was call the number back that was listed in the message, and told the answering service that answered that if they continue to send me messages to my phone, that it costs me money. If they did not immediately stop sending me messages I would report them to the FCC and also to the Better Business Bureau for harassment. It worked like a charm, and I never got another message.

As for the Hotmail account, I've learned that you can't use your real name or any version of it. What I've found to be the biggest contributor of spam to my Hotmail mailbox is the Hotmail service itself. I hate my AOL account, because it gets so much crap from other AOL members. I've started to just report any and all objectional pieces of e-mail to AOL.

Posted by: RLBorg on July 11, 2002 07:29 AM

Well, MS hotmail seems to be a hot bed of spam. I don't use my name on my hotmail, but constantly get the junk anyway. My guess is that MS allows companies to spam to pay for the service. I get far more spam their than I get in any of my other email ids.

Posted by: Arminius on July 11, 2002 07:41 AM

You use Sprint??? HAHAHA :P

Posted by: nobody on July 15, 2002 09:14 AM

Wes, What would you expect from Microsoft services? I mean really, Hotmail, MSN? MSFT is like a junky and needs massive amounts of green in it's veins. Income from SPAM is probably part of their business plan for those "services".

I'll bet if you read the fine print you'll see that you gave them the rights to everything that goes thru their servers. So don't write or email any articles on those accounts that you want to copyright.

Netscape or Yahoo will be better about this. After all, they've not been found guilty of illegal business practices.


My thanks to Wes Salmon for allowing the use of this old thread (not that old, really) on cellphone spam via Cingular. Patrick just now told me he has gone for years with his cell phone and never gotten any spam through the email function; now in the past two weeks, two blasts of it, five or ten pieces at a time.


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