Almost all American adults – 97% – own a cell phone, according to the wireless industry. There are approximately 470 million mobile devices currently in service.
And yet we still fail to address the chronic problem of spam calls from telemarketers.
On the contrary, the problem is getting worse as these companies come up with devious new ways to bypass the defenses of wireless service providers and customers.
Just ask Terry Feigenbaum, who contacted me the other day, to express his exasperation with a company called Quantum 3 Media, which he says calls his iPhone every day, sometimes up to eight times a day. .
“I get other spam calls, but I’ve never had anyone after me like that,” said the Cheviot Hills resident.
“Every time they call, I block the number,” he told me. “But they just called back from a different number. They seem to have an unlimited supply.
Feigenbaum’s experience won’t come as a shock to other cell phone users, who as noted above are you, me, and pretty much everyone.
I get spam calls almost every day from companies trying to sell me a new car warranty, not to mention robocalls in Chinese that come in far too frequently to be the wrong numbers.
You or someone you know is undoubtedly familiar with the most common phone scams that refuse to die – fake calls from the Social Security Administration or Internal Revenue Service, fake calls from Amazon or Microsoft.
Americans received an estimated 4.1 billion robocalls last month alone, according to the latest figures from Irvine’s YouMail, a robocall blocking app. This translates to over 137 million automated calls per day, or approximately 1,600 per second.
LA residents alone received about 3.4 million automated calls last month, according to YouMail. That’s about seven calls per person, a figure that seems decidedly conservative.
Seven automated calls per month? Heck, I get at least that many every week. You probably do too.
But I had never heard of Quantum 3 Media until Feigenbaum, 84, a retired optometrist, asked me to review these guys.
I did. And everything about the North Carolina company illustrates why spam calls are so prevalent and so hard to stop.
Quantum 3 Media is a so called lead generator for life and health insurance companies. That is, he harasses potential clients on behalf of insurers.
“Q3M offers qualified leads and sales to the top brands and insurance agencies,” the company says on its website.
“The combination of data science and predictive analytics with a diverse set of important lead generation affiliates has resulted in exclusive and unique opportunities. “
The Quantum 3 Media site lists the who’s who of leading insurers as its “partners,” including Anthem Blue Cross, Cigna, Aetna, Humana and Mutual of Omaha.
Yet not everything about this business passes the smell test.
First of all, don’t bother trying to call. I tried the company number several times. Either way, I got a recording saying the mailbox is full and you can’t leave a message.
Contacting Quantum 3 Media through its website seems risky to say the least. You are asked to provide your name, phone number and email address, and to select one of only two reasons for contacting: “marketing information” or “employment information”.
That’s it. You cannot send a message or forward a request. All you can do is provide your contact details, which of course isn’t something you want to do with a telemarketer.
I tracked down the email address of the company’s CEO, Joshua Jagid. He did not answer.
None of that looks great for a telecom company that specializes in, you know, connecting with people.
The internet is rife with consumer complaints about Quantum 3 Media.
“I get 6-10 phone calls a day from these spammers,” said a complaint posted last month on the Better Business Bureau site, which gave Quantum a rating of F.
“Excessive and abusive telemarketing calls at any time of the day; dozens a day, ”indicates a complaint posted last week on Pissed Consumer.
“Constant calls 8-10 times a day from different numbers,” reads a complaint posted last week on Scampulse. “I blocked all the numbers and keep calling.”
Feigenbaum’s experience is the same. He told me he started getting calls from Quantum about two months ago and they haven’t stopped.
Worse yet, Feigenbaum said, Quantum never leaves a message. He calls and calls and calls.
“I would love to answer them and give them my opinion,” he said. “But I’m afraid to make them angry.”
Feigenbaum is a customer of T-Mobile and uses the company’s free wireless tool to block spam calls. Unfortunately, he said the filter fails to prevent most Quantum calls from going through, possibly because they keep coming from different numbers.
No one at T-Mobile responded to my request for comment.
The wireless industry is focusing its anti-spam efforts on a system called “Shaken / Stir” (and, yes, the techno-geeks behind the program say the reference to James Bond was deliberate).
However, industry experts say it will take Shaken / Stir years to reduce the volume of spam calls, if at all.
Robocallers are smart, experts say. No matter what we throw in their way, they keep finding inventive ways to get through.
“There are no quick fixes,” said Jim McEachern, senior technologist at the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions, a business group spearheading the implementation of Shaken / Stir. “All we can do is try to reduce it as we reduce email scams. “
It is the thing, however. By some estimates, almost 85% of all emails are spam. Most do not reach our inboxes thanks to aggressive filtering by Internet service providers.
For spam calls to be similarly protected, experts tell me, wireless companies would need to monitor their networks much more diligently and invest millions of dollars in new technology resources.
This is not happening. On the contrary, the slow rollout of Shaken / Stir shows that many service providers had to be kicked and screamed by the Federal Communications Commission to do something.
Solutions exist, if the wireless industry is prepared to invest in protecting customers from harassment.
In the meantime, the choices are easy for companies like Quantum 3 Media.
David Lazarus, a columnist for the Los Angeles Times, writes on consumer issues. He can be contacted at [email protected]