Even Mayors Get Dialer Scammed

It’s not just small fry getting hooked in the great modem hijacking/dialer scam.

The Derrick, a publication from Pennsylvania’s Oil City, reports the town’s former mayor has become embroiled, demanding Verizon forgive $1,200 in charges. Verizon has so far refused to forgive Malachy McMahon’s debt.

McMahon is going after Verizon, who he sees as complicit in the scam: “For a corporation to condone and profit from this is beyond me, in the case of Verizon,” the publication quoted McMahon as saying. “It’s illegal activity. They’re after phone usage. It’s big-time money when they go overseas.” Local prosecutors are looking into this and other cases.

Part of the problem is that the billing is not just to the telco. Another company, National One Telecom, claims he owes $76 for calls. National One seems to make its money from charging an “entertainment fee” for accessing certain websites — which are not named on the bills. Some of the fee goes to the telco, some to National One. This is how National Telecom describes itself:

National One Telecom, Inc.’s mission is to provide billing solutions for clients with audiotext services, videotext services, long distance services, and other telecommunications services.

Our goal is to seamlessly merge Internet technologies with technologies seen in traditional telephone networks. Together with our clients we create a bridge between the two allowing for better ecommerce and telephone access to a wide national audience.

In addition to this, we are committed to helping our customers understand these new billing solutions and are willing to walk them through step by step in case they have any questions or problems. Thank you for your business.

Hmm. The most amusing bit of the Derrick story is this end quote from a Verizon spokesman: Modem hijacking, while “an industry-wide problem, is not really a telephone-company issue per se. It’s really an Internet issue.” Sure. Telcos, watch out.

How To Avoid People With Bluetooth

Further to some postings a few weeks back about bluetooth dating (here and here), seems we defined the field too narrowly. We should have been talking about ‘personal smart presence devices’ and perhaps we’re not seeing a fad here, but a different way of regarding social interaction. (All these services reside on Bluetooth devices — usually cellphones — which then use the wireless connection medium to search for and link up with other devices running the same software.)

Speck, for example, integrates with the user’s IM buddy lists and address books. (Speck’s a bit different in that it is an actual device, not just software that loads onto an existing gadget. But it can in interact with Bluetooth PDAs and cellphone running Speck software.) It will then alert the user when others are near and, if wanted, swap information with them. So what, exactly, could something like Speck be used for? Here’s a list of some scenarios, most of which revolve around meeting people with similar tastes or swapping information (contacts, directions, playlists, functions). But how about the negative? Speck could be used to locate a “crush” around campus, know when he/she is in the area, or avoiding someone you really don’t want to see.

CrowdSurfer does something pretty similar, but focuses on the hidden connections between people (the friends they have in common, for example) who are within Bluetooth range. The creators of this service envisage a world beyond Bluetooth dating or toothing to where business people hook up with potential partners, customers or employers at conferences.

As Jonas M Luster writes in his blog: ”Sure, bluetooth dating and “toothing” seem to be not much more than just another fad, but one would do well to remember the humble beginnings of consumer-level VCR, BBS, and Internet technologies. It always starts with some romantic entrepreneur trying to improve his or her personal “hit rate” with a partner profile of choice, develops into cool new, and not so raunchy, technologies, before finally reaching commodity status.”