Telemarketers Eye Cell Phones

If Grant Hansen believed all the junk faxes that have flooded his home office, he'd have made a mint on penny stocks, cut his mortgage to next to nothing and found the magic weight loss pill.

It's supposed to be illegal to pitch business by fax unless there's a pre-existing relationship. But, as CBS News Correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi reports, that doesn't stop the faxers. Many are set up offshore.

"Saturdays, Sundays, 3 a.m., it doesn't know any boundaries," says Hansen.

Now imagine that it's your cell phone ringing instead, with a telemarketer on the other end, pitching you like crazy and sucking up your valuable minutes.

Some people say that's a really bad idea.

"That would be awful, horrible. It's bad enough at home," says one cell phone user.

"Not good, not good," says another. "I do not want to hear from these people."

A widely circulated e-mail warns that when the nation's wireless phone directory goes online next year, you will be flooded with "sales calls on your cell phones." But Qsent, the company creating the directory, says the alarming e-mail is simply not true.

"Telemarketers use lists and 411 will not be a list," says Qsent privacy officer Greg Keene. "It will not be a phone book."

They insist only cell phone customers who "opt in" to the service will be listed.

"If they do nothing at all, they won't be in the service," Keene.

But privacy experts wonder how long that pledge will last if there's money to be made.

"They can start with a very good privacy policy and they will change as soon as they think they have the opportunity to get further revenue," says Marc Rotenberg of the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

Rotenberg warns a "company policy" without a law backing it up, isn't worth the paper it's written on.

"They still kept in fine print of the contracts, that consumers have the right to revise the policy at any time," says Rotenberg.

He says this is done so they can change the rules without telling the consumer.

"I'd never promise that the rules won't change, but I will promise that consumers will have always have a choice if the rules do change," says Keene.

In other words, trust us.

"Yeahhh, I don't know about that," says Hansen dubiously.

Like many, Hansen fears it's only matter of time before somebody finds a way to start "selling to your cell."
  • Jaime Holguin

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