Cell Phone Harassment...
with Cell Phone Harassment
Whether you are a salesperson, politician, repairman, parent or teenager, you likely not only own a cell phone, but depend on its constant availability. Over 190 million Americans have cell phone subscriptions. Today, there are more cell phone subscriptions than traditional "land-line" subscriptions according to the Cellular Telecommunications International Association (www.ctia.org).
With cell phones fast
becoming the primary way of communicating, harassing phone calls can be
especially distressing and disruptive. You should be aware of the steps you need
to take if you receive harassing calls, text messages, or spam.
What can I do
if I am receiving harassing calls on my cell phone?
Cell phone carriers recommend that you contact the police first because they have expertise in personal safety. Forty-four states now have laws that explicitly include electronic forms of communication within stalking or harassment laws. For specifics please see www.ncsl.org/programs/lis/cip/stalk99.htm.
You should file a
report with the police department. This is important to ensure that you can get
a subpoena. A subpoena is a court order demanding the production of evidence.
Filing a report is not a guarantee that you will get a subpoena however.
Depending on the resources of your local police station, your complaint may not
be fully investigated. We recommend that you file the report as a first step
because most cell phone carriers will not reveal customer information, including
a harasser's identity, without a subpoena.
Some cell phone
carriers have corporate security divisions that will work with you to stop the
harassing calls. You should call customer service after filing your police
report and determine if your phone carrier will assist you without a subpoena.
If your phone carrier does not offer this option you can consider filing a civil
suit against your harasser and subpoena the information from the phone carrier
as part of your lawsuit.
"land-line" phones, you are not able to block incoming callers to your
cell phone. However, you should record the date, time, and description of each
call, and save any messages you receive. This information is essential evidence
in helping the police and the cell phone carrier investigate the harassment. If
you think that the messages will be deleted before you are able to get a
subpoena, it is a good idea to play the message into a tape recorder.
What can I do
if I am receiving harassing text messages on my cell phone?
In addition to filing
the police report, it is important to document the harassment. If you think the
messages will be deleted before the investigation is complete, you may want to
photograph the text messages.
Parents should be
aware of the increase in electronic bullying through text messages. One option
is to contact the carrier and ask that the text message function be disabled.
Disabling this feature will block all messages though (it is not usually
possible to block a single phone number). As cell phones are often an integral
part of a child's social life, you may not want to completely take away this
Experts suggest that
turning off the text messaging function for a few days may be enough to
discourage the harasser. Policies on blocking text messages vary by individual
carrier, and your carrier may offer other options.
Often people use
shorthand for text messages. If you are unsure of what the shorthand means, you
can use the translator found at www.teenangels.org
can I do if I am receiving spam text messages on my cell phone?
Beginning in 2004, the federal CAN-SPAM law made it illegal to send unsolicited commercial text messages. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has compiled a list of websites to which marketers may not send unsolicited e-mail because the messages go to wireless devices. This list was compiled with the help of the cell phone carriers.
If you are receiving
unwanted messages, it is important to notify your phone carrier so they can get
an idea of the scope of the problem. But remember, text messages from your phone
carrier regarding your account are not considered "spam" within the
meaning of the law.
can report unwanted text messages to the Federal Communications Commission
(FCC). The FCC cannot award monetary or other damages and does not settle
individual consumer complaints, but it can issue citations or impose fines
against those violating the CAN-SPAM Act, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act,
the National Do-Not-Call Registry, and the FCC's related rules.
may file a complaint with the FCC by:
E-mail: [email protected] Online :
Telephone: Voice (888) CALL-FCC, or (888-225-5322) TTY (888)
TELL-FCC, of (888-835-5322)
Mail: Federal Communications Commission Consumer &
Governmental Affairs Bureau Consumer Inquiries and Complaint Division 445 12th
Street, SW Washington, DC 20554
The FCC asks that
you include the following in your complaint;
Your name, address, and daytime telephone number
The telephone number or e-mail address at which you received an
unsolicited commercial message or call, or an autodialed call
As much specific information about the message as possible,
including: the date and time you received the message the identity of the
company that sent the message to you the products or services that were promoted
in the message
The sender's e-mail address and any other e-mail addresses, street
addresses or telephone numbers that may be referenced in the message