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Put a Stop to Mobile Spam

 Bonnie  Biafore Now that mobile phones are practically permanent ear attachments, we have to face the newest scourge of electronic life: mobile spam, aka m-spam. Telemarketing calls to your landline are annoying. Unsolicited calls and text messages to your mobile phone are infuriating: They not only intrude on your time but also consume precious plan minutes or add texting charges to your bill.

Many countries have a caller-pays model for mobile phones in which incoming calls are free. But in the U.S., mobile customers pay for calls they send and receive, which makes m-spam particularly vexing here.
The Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission developed the National Do Not Call Registry to help consumers control the flood of telemarketing calls to both landlines and mobile phones. The list — which is quite effective, although not infallible — covers interstate and intrastate telemarketing calls. A recent Harris Interactive poll reports 78 percent of people receive far fewer calls or none at all after registering their phone number.
You can register up to three numbers for free. Thanks to the Do-Not-Call Improvement Act of 2007, those registrations won’t expire unless you disconnect a number or remove your registration from the database.
To sign up, go to the homepage and click Register Now or call 888-382-1222; for TTY (teletype), 866-290-4236. On the next page fill in your phone numbers and e-mail address. Then click Submit. You’ll receive an e-mail for each phone number. When you click the link in the e-mail, your Web browser will display a page confirming the registration is complete.
The Do Not Call Registry doesn’t cover all situations. Organizations can call you if you’ve done business with them or you’ve given written permission for them to do so. The registry also doesn’t stop noncommercial calls or those that don’t include unsolicited advertisements, such as surveys or contact on behalf of tax-exempt nonprofits. If you don’t want to receive these types of calls, ask the representative to place your number on their do-not-call list.

Prevent Unwanted Text Messages

Text-message spam is growing. Spammers can send e-mails from the Internet at no cost; they use computers to guess mobile phone addresses and send text messages to them. You not only have to pay for an unwanted message if they guess your number but also have to open the message to delete it.
The best defense against this m-spam is to block text messages from the Internet, a feature most U.S. cellular carriers now offer.
Another way to avoid m-spam is to create an alias for your phone address. Aliases are similar to the strong passwords you establish for online accounts. To set up an alias, change your address from, say, yourmobilenumber@text.att.net to spammergetlost12345@text.att.net. (An address including letters, numbers and punctuation is harder, although not impossible, to guess.) Then share your alias with people and organizations you want to send messages to you.
Mobile antispam features are likely to proliferate along with the volume of m-spam, so check your carrier’s website for current offerings. AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon all offer some type of text-message blocking.
At the AT&T site, for example, after logging in find the Blocking Options page, then check the boxes to block messages sent as e-mail. Choose Block on the Mobile Number Control dropdown list. You can also add e-mail addresses and domains to the Allow List to receive messages from those senders. If, for instance, you ask airlines to send flight update text messages to your phone, include the airline domains on this list.
The Block List isn’t as helpful, however, because spammers regularly change the e-mail addresses and domains they use. But when you receive an unwanted e-mail on your mobile phone, reply with the word block to automatically add that address to your Block List.
In general, don’t publish your mobile number online, including at such places as membership directories, newsgroups, chat rooms and of course websites. If you do provide your number to a website, first read the site’s privacy policy to ensure it doesn’t sell your personal information. Opt out of receiving solicitations from partners.
Also, be wary of downloading games or ringtones to your mobile device. Some downloads include viruses and worms that can infect your phone. And such a purchase establishes a business relationship with the vendor, which permits that vendor to call you or send text messages.

What to Do If You Receive M-Spam

Don’t just delete the message. Take the following steps to avoid charges on your bill and prevent additional spam: 

•  Report the m-spam to your mobile carrier immediately and ask to have charges for the spam messages removed. Although carriers aren’t legally required to reverse charges, most will do so to keep their customers happy.

•  File a complaint with the FCC by using its online complaint form or calling 888-225-5322. You can also report the spam to your state’s attorney general.

Link of the Month

SMobile Systems is one of the companies offering security software for mobile devices. Its products protect mobile phones from viruses, spam, unwanted calls and other mobile communication threats. The company’s products include SMobile PointGuard, which can filter calls and messages in the same way antispam filters do on your computer. For example, you can automatically deny calls from unknown sources.

Websites of Interest

National Do Not Call Registry

AT&T Wireless Login

FCC Online Complaint Form

SMobile Systems

Bonnie Biafore is the author of 24 books about investing, personal finance, project management, software (such as QuickBooks and Project) and the recently published novel, Fresh Squeezed. Go to BonnieBiafore.com to learn more.

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