A quandry for Verizon Wireless

Verizon Wireless has a foolish policy in which it charges for text messages sent and received. For my plan, it charges 15 cents per message – what a rip! And it is those 15 cent charges for receiving text message that will come back to haunt Verizon for years to come.

Text messages are essentially emails ([phone number]@vtext.com). It is no secret that spam is a scourge that effects regular email and the Internet in epidemic proportions. And it is only a matter of time before spammers all set their sites on sending text messages indiscriminately to any and all phone numbers a generator can spit out. It seems they already have started in sufficient quantity that my wife received one this evening.

New Text Msg

Message from Royce@dutlru.tudelft.nl

(hey) hey, i seen your profile wondering if ya wanted to chat on msn hit me up at realhotjane1@hotmail.com

1/24 10:13p

For that message I was charged 15 cents. To wipe out the charge, I was forced to call Verizon customer service and request it reverse the charge. In the end, that one text message cost Verizon $3, or whatever it costs to handle one call. I was told it now has an option to blacklist certain email addresses and turn off text messaging but I refuse to bother using either option since it really doesn’t resolve the problem or my issue. As such, each future spam message will cost Verizon another $3+, since I will call to complain then as well. When I called, the customer service rep told me I’m not the only person complaining about receiving spam and requesting a charge be reversed. Verizon needs to stop charging customers to receive text messages before spam becomes more costly than it already has.

It was only a matter of time

It was only a matter of time before the credit crunch and mortgage foreclosure mania became fodder for spammers and joined the likes of Ci@lis, V!@gra, and Peni$ enlargements in the inbox of wary readers. I received this email this evening:

—– Original Message —-
From: John Cummuta <John_Cummuta@****.com>
To: ****@yahoo.com
Sent: Wednesday, January 23, 2008 3:16:55 PM
Subject: A unique way out of debt

Your Debts Could Make You Rich!

Your debts disappear (even your house is paid off) in 5-7 years, and you retire debt-free… using nothing more than the money you’re currently earning plus one of today’s best-kept secrets: Does my story sound too familiar?I should’ve seen it, because each day I dressed myself in clothes paid for by credit cards, walked on financed carpet in our mortgaged house, and drove a leased car.

But even when the company I worked for went under and I found myself scrambling to keep from losing the house, cars, furniture, and our good name, I still didn’t see it. Then, a couple of days later, when I was forced to sell my gold Corvette and my wife’s Olds Regency, it hit me: I was a prisoner of debt.

As long as I owed people money, they owned me! At that moment, I made myself a promise: “I will never be this vulnerable again!” I had to find a way out of debt. And that’s exactly what I did. But in the process, I developed a unique method that transforms debt into wealth. So much wealth, that almost anyone who uses it can be a millionaire by the time he or she retires. And best of all … you can accumulate your $1 million nest egg using nothing more than the money you’re currently earning.

And it’s easy: One year after I explained my method to Jan and Jerrel Herron (both in their 50s), their credit cards and two cars were paid off. In the second year, they paid off the mortgage. Then they showed my method to their 32-year-old twin sons. One son quickly paid off his house. The other paid his off one year later.

The same happened to Ruth DeHaven of Santee, CA: “We were over $125,000 in debt. Today, just 3 years later, we are completely debt-free, including no mortgage on our house, and my husband and I have just retir ed at at age 55.”

And Dale Prull, from San Jose, CA, says, “After only 8 months all my credit cards were paid off. Ten months later my car was paid off. The value of my home is over $400,000 and will be paid off in 3 years and 4 months. Following your plan, I’ll retire 12 years later with almost $1 million.”

Over half a million people have used my method, and now it’s your turn.

Stop being a prisoner of debt today! Discover how good it feels to wake up each morning knowing you own your car, house, and everything you have, and you don’t owe a penny to anyone. No more bills in the mailbox.

My method transforms your debt into wealth – growing to $1 million – using nothing more than the money you’re currently earning. Thanks to the best-kept secret of the investment industry, you’re in control of your life: free, financially independent – enjoying peace of mind, knowing your family is safe and you’re set for life!

See how it works today.

John Cummuta

P.S. Don’t make another payment on your home, car, or credit card until you hear the truth of today’s 5 biggest rip-offs – from some of America’s largest, most-trusted names. Stop making others rich, while they keep you poor – a prisoner of debt. Break free today … and transform your debt into wealth.

This is a commercial message from ********. To stop receiving commercial messages promoting John Cummuta and **********, please visit http://www.************.com/remove/ You may also email your unsubscribe request to remove@************.com or mail your request with a copy of this original email to: *********, 2710 Thomas Ave. Suite 334, Cheyenne, WY 82001.

*********.com Compliance:
You are subscribed with the email address ********@yahoo.com. We respect your privacy. In our effort to keep up with good business practices, we now offer two ways To unsubscribe from our email lists
If you do not wish to receive any more emails from
*********.com read below:
To Unsubscribe on the web Click Here! and follow the instructions. or write us to the address below with a written request.
Once we have received your submission, you will be removed automatically from our subscribers list.
If you feel that you have received this message in error You may contact us at at ********@gmail.com or at our mailling address.
mailing address for *********.com:
*********.com Customer Care
5314 16th avenue
Suite 442
Brooklyn NY 11204

Some sap who is down on their luck will respond to this email and the avalanche will begin. This scammer is preying on desperate people. I expect the FTC will continue to do its job and look the other way.

Drunken Spammers beware …

I have a rare email address with one of the original big free email providers and I still use it on a daily basis. Unfortunately, it gets a few hundred spam emails per day and, worse, it is frequently spoofed by spammers. Needless to say, I hate spammers more than most people because of the double whammy.

It was only with great pleasure that I got a chance to talk to a spammer directly, one-on-one, to threaten legal action. For whatever reason, a spammer decided to include a toll-free number (877-208-5642) in its spam email messages. The guy picked up the phone like this: “Hello, are you interested in a business loan?” As much as I wanted to unleash several years of pent up anger, I didn’t. I told the guy on the other end that he was spoofing my email address in his spam emails and if he continued, I would take legal action. He told me he would stop.

Needless to say, my next call will be to AT&T to track down who supplies the toll-free number. I will send that company a happy letter asking them to disconnect it and telling them if they don’t and he continues to spoof my email address that I will include their deeper pockets in any lawsuit I file. 🙂 Not to mention, it will be on notice and anyone else who might read this may choose to demonstrate those deeper pockets had notice one of its customers was an evil spammer and refused to take action.

Note: I’m not advocating that you call the spammer. For all you know, by the time you read this, he’s moved on to another toll free number. That said, should you choose to call up the spammer (877-208-5642), do so from pay or other public phone. Toll-free calls have a caller ID system that shows all incoming phone numbers, regardless of whether you told the phone company to block your number or not.

I received several dozen bounced messages with that toll-free number. Here is one such message. For sanity’s sake, I removed email addresses.


The original message was received at Mon, 10 Sep 2007 08:33:23 -0700
from qmail2.iswest.net []

—– The following addresses had permanent fatal errors —–
(reason: 554 5.4.6 Too many hops)

—– Transcript of session follows —–
554 5.4.6 Too many hops 28 (25 max): from <danny@…com> via localhost, to <mcd@….com>
Reporting-MTA: dns; canitscan3.iswest.net Arrival-Date: Mon, 10 Sep 2007 08:33:23 -0700 Final-Recipient: RFC822; mcd@….com Action: failed Status: 5.4.6 Diagnostic-Code: SMTP; 554 5.4.6 Too many hops Last-Attempt-Date: Mon, 10 Sep 2007 09:13:10 -0700

—–Inline Message Follows—–

No Hassle Business Loans!

If you have your own business and want:

  • IMMEDIATE cash to spend ANY way you like
  • Extra money to give the business a boost.

orried that your credit is less than perfect? Not an issue.

Just call the number below.

You’ll thank me later!

Call Free 1 [877] 2 0 8 5 6 4 2

24 hours a day, 7 days a week including Sundays and Holidays!

No Hassle Business Loans!

If you have your own business and want:

  • IMMEDIATE cash to spend ANY way you like
  • Extra money to give the business a boost.

orried that your credit is less than perfect? Not an issue.

Just call the number below.

You’ll thank me later!

Call Free 1 [877] 2 0 8 5 6 4 2

24 hours a day, 7 days a week including Sundays and Holidays!

UPDATE (9/13/07): The emails are still going out. AT&T was helpful and told me it isn’t the service provider for the number but the service provider code is ixc01, likely Excel Communications. Excel’s web site says that toll free calls from pay phones cost at least 35 cents each. It turns out ixc01 isn’t Excel’s provider code; however its staff was more helpful pointing me towards Broadwing Communications.

UPDATE (9/18/07): Broadwing is now Level3 which I contacted on the 14th. Their customer service folks seemed pretty cool. However, the spam email keeps going out and the toll-free number is still alive. I’ll need to call it again when I get a chance, likely Thursday afternoon. I understand it takes a while for things to wind through the corporatocracy but I figure a week should be plenty of time.

UPDATE (9/20/07): The number is still alive so I contacted Level3 again. I was redirected to someone in its Customer Service (I guess I wasn’t in contact with that department before). I also have been calling the toll-free number from the spam. I generally get an error telling me its voice mail is full. Today, I was able to get through and speak with two different people who both identified the company by name when answering. “Empire funding. Are you interested in a business loan?” Each person repeated the company name when asked. I also queried each person for the company’s address and was given an address on N. Central Ave. in Phoenix, AZ. One person gave me 201 as the street address and the other 205. No suite number. After a little research, I found out that 201 N. Central Ave. is the address of Chase Tower, tallest building in Arizona. JP Morgan Chase Bank has large offices there, along with the posh, private Arizona Club, Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, and a number of other well known tenants. I was not able to find an online directory of tenants in Chase Tower, but I’m skeptical that a fly-by-night spamming loan company would be able to afford a high rent building. I also filed a complaint with the FTC.

limiting postal marketing mail

A family member recently commented on the amount of junk snail mail they receive. I prepared an email with information to help reduce the amount received and decided to post that information in case anyone else finds it useful.

The best way to stop receiving marketing mail is to contact the companies you do business with and tell them to limit the amount of marketing mail they send you and to not sell your personal information. However, that is often not enough because of direct marketing is big industry in the US. There are existing lists with your personal information that is sold wholesale, credit bureaus, public records such as telephone book listings or property deeds.

Offers of credit:
From the the Experian Privacy Policy:

“You can remove your name from prescreened credit or insurance offer mailing lists from Experian, Innovis, TransUnion and Equifax by calling 888 5OPT OUT (888 567 8688).

You will be given a choice to opt out for five years or permanently. If you elect to opt out permanently, you will be mailed a Notice of Election to Opt Out Permanently, which you must sign and return to activate your permanent opt-out. Even though your request becomes effective with Experian within five days of your notifying us, it may take several months before you see a reduction in the amount of solicitations. “

I opted-out in August and have only gotten two more offers since October. Much better than the two per week I had been receiving.

Other generic marketing mail addressed to you. Think, Publisher’s Clearinghouse:

  1. Delist your name and address from the telephone book. For me, it costs about 40 cents per month (although, in reality should be free).
  2. The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) is the largest of the trade organizations representing companies and organizations that send direct mail. They allow an opt-out but will force you to pay a dollar before honoring your request, citing a bogus excuse of fighting fraud. I will submit a legislative proposal to my state legislator and congresswoman at some point in the next year proposing that such charges be banned and suggesting the creation of a do not mail list, like the do not call list. Marketers only bring it upon themselves.
  3. Major data warehouses and resellers

And if you’re getting telemarketing, make sure you get on the National Do-Not Call list maintained by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). According to an FTC press release on June 21, 2006, more than 125 million phone numbers were registered on the do not call list . BTW: According to that same press release, cell phones don’t need to be included because of specific Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations that already forbid telemarketing to cell phones.

Has Yahoo! Mail Jumped the Shark?

Yahoo! Mail ran a test by attaching third party advertisements to the bottom of each email message I sent using my Yahoo! Mail account during the past week. Here are three such ads:


Sponsored Link

Mortgage rates near 39yr lows. $420,000 Mortgage for $1,399/mo – Calculate new house payment

Sponsored Link

Online degrees – find the right program to advance your career.


Sponsored Link

Degrees online in as fast as 1 Yr – MBA, Bachelor’s, Master’s, Associate – Click now to apply

Previously, that ad spot was held only by internal Yahoo! products such as Yahoo! Mail, Messenger, and Music. Those are expected. This is, after all, mail from a Yahoo! Mail account. However, third party advertisements, particularly bottom-of-the-barrel advertisers like LowerMyBills and Nextag, are another story.

To be blunt, I think it stinks. I understand that Yahoo! is a business but it needs users as much as it needs advertisers. Attaching third party advertisements to the bottom of user emails will likely turn users off to Yahoo! Mail and the company in general and is a particularly risky move because there are viable competing products that don’t attach third party ads, like GMail and Hotmail.

If Yahoo! Mail likes the result of the test and decides to continue down this path, I have some demands (after all, I am now just a user):

1) More clear and conspicuous disclosure.

a) Name the advertiser and/or domain. Only one of the three advertisers I listed above are named.
b) Disclosure that this ad is inserted by Yahoo!.
c) A “more info” link that points to a help page that contains more information about what this is about.
d) The font used for the disclosures needs updating. It should be the same or similar font size, weight, and color as the ad itself. “Sponsored Link” is currently in grey (versus black) and in a smaller font than the ad. If the ad is in black, the text should be too. The current set-up makes it look like Yahoo! is hiding something.

2) Control over advertisers and advertising categories. Major advertisers (i.e. Chevy, Dell, Disney, etc) that sell regular products and services are fine. However, I don’t want bottom of the barrel advertisements hawking controversial products or services that will make my emails look spammy or get caught in spam filtering software. Examples include LowerMyBills, X10, CIC (credit reports), sites selling diplomas or telling us how to earn a degree, selling prescription drugs such as ci@lis and viagra, or sites pushing multi-level marketing (MLM).

3) No web beacons or graphical ads ever. Enough said.

4) More information about how this works. Questions that need to be answered include:

  • “How are advertisers chosen?”
  • “How are the ads and advertisers screened?”
  • “What type of ads will never appear?”
  • “How are the ads targeted?”
  • “Are my email messages scanned to determine the topic?”
  • etc.

I think these demands are reasonable. I’m not asking for a cut; having a free, dependable email service is enough for me. I just don’t want my messages to look like spam, be flagged as spam, or for the ads to offend the recipients. Even then, I won’t decide whether to accept the ads until I have more info.

I don’t think I need to remind anyone, but Yahoo! is in the trust business. Without user trust, Yahoo! is nothing. Users build a lot of equity in their online identities, including their email addresses, but that doesn’t mean they won’t abandon the company and its products if they feel they can no longer trust it. That same equity is what makes a user fight like hell if that identity is threatened.

I could say a million things more but I don’t have time. I should be studying.

Note: I edited this some and made my blog public again after finding out this program was a test that has since ended. I’m glad I don’t need to consider giving up my email account just yet.