I have two mobile phones. One is purely for personal calls and so that number is only known to my family and closest friends. The other is purely for business calls, the number is printed on my business. A couple of times last week I received what are known as silent calls: telephone rings, you answer, nobody speaks and the line drops after a brief whirring and clicking. It used to be the case that most silent calls could be put down to embarrassed types who had mis-dialled. These days they are much more likely to be a precursor to spam.
That business cellphone of mine is only switched on during the hours I am working on any particular day, mainly as I don't want to be pestered by business calls on those very rare occasions when I am taking some time off. The day after the last of those silent calls hit me I took one of those days off, or at least the 'office hours' part of one. Deciding to get an hour or so of work in the bag later that evening I switched the phone back on expecting to see a missed call or three, maybe a few texts. There were those, but there were also a bunch of missed call notifications from the same 0800 number. Having Googled the full number, I am glad I was not around to take the call. It seems that this one belonged to a well known marketing company with some very unhappy customers.
The folks over at Dynamoo have a rather interesting site which goes into some depth about how this particular marketing company has been annoying people.
I am not surprised they are unhappy. If you call one of these silent call numbers back you get a recorded message explaining something along the lines of 'you have been called by LBM on behalf of one of our clients. If you do wish to receive a follow up call, no further action is required. If you do not wish to receive a follow up call, please call us on 0800 XXX XXXX to unsubscribe.' Sounds polite enough, sounds reasonable enough - apart from the fact that I didn't ask them to call me in the first place and even though the telephone number concerned is a 'freephone' one in the UK, if I call it from my mobile phone I get charged. Why on earth should I pay to unsubscribe from something I never subscribed to in the first place? If that doesn't count as spam or scam, I don't know what does.
And then there are those text messages to worry about.
According to Ferris Research, US users of wireless devices will be hit by no less than 1.1 million spam text messages by the end of this year. That marks and increase of 38% from last year, and next year is likely to be even worse with predictions currently running at 1.5 million for the US alone. Sure, that pales into insignificance when compared to the scale of email spam, but as cellphones morph into smartphone, and devices such as the iPhone help bring the concept of a mobile Internet out there to the public masses, then the spamming is only going to get worse. In-Stat reckon that sales of such smart mobile devices will grow to 294 million worldwide by 2011, that's 150% over the next four years.
The spam problem would already be a lot worse were the network operators not taking action to prevent it. Verizon Wireless in the US says it managed to block all but 4,618 spam text messages from a pool of 12 million it intercepted from a single telemarketing company, a company it sued in May for the cost of the network blockages.
I already have a security scanner package installed on my smartphone to weed out the mobile malware, I guess that anti-spam will be the next big mobile thing...