Zapping Cell Phone Spam

By: Elizabeth Donatelli
By: Elizabeth Donatelli

November 6, 2006

Cell phones are almost an everyday accessory, but for spammers they are an untapped resource. Some lawmakers in Virginia are out to make cell phone spam illegal.

Cell phones are a way of life like personal computers strapped to your body, ones that spammers are starting to attack.

"Email spam obviously got worse and worse and worse, and it took us some time to react. Fax spam, early on with faxes where you had to pay for special paper was a problem," said Delegate Rob Bell, who is sponsoring the bill. "This is just the latest development of people sending you messages that you don't want to get, but you have to pay for and for once we're going to try to get ahead of the problem before it really pumps up."

The bill will make sending unsolicited text messages illegal, similar to laws about email spam.

"If we knew then what we know now about email spam, we would probably be an awful lot more aggressive about legislating it away," said Tom McCrystal who is on the Cyber Crimes Advisory Committee.

One of the differences with cell spam is messages usually cost about 10 cents for the customer, where as with email they are free. Enough of these messages and you can clog up the phone's memory so that you can't use it.

"It could be a problem if your daughter is calling from school because she's sick and you need to come get her, you may never get that message," said McCrystal.

Law makers in Richmond are reviewing the bill, which is expected to be re-introduced this session. But there is already legislation at the federal level and some wireless companies think this is enough.

One company made this statement: "Sprint Nextel believes the intent behind this state legislation is sound, but we are hesitant to support the creation of 50 separate state laws. We are confident that the existing Federal law provides the necessary tools that law enforcement needs to prosecute the of purveyors mobile spam text messages."

Three of the major wireless providers did not outright opposed the bill, but none endorsed it either.

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