Is Boost Mobile fraudulently disguising telemarketing calls as service interruption notices? Could be

So, what did you do over your holidays? Mine? Well, amongst other things, I fielded a barrage of telemarketing calls that I wasn't all too happy about.

So, what did you do over your holidays? Mine? Well, amongst other things, I fielded a barrage of telemarketing calls that I wasn't all too happy about. Telemarketers are notoriously known for calling during dinner time. But they must see the holidays as one big long dinner time, assuming that everyone is always home. One case in point was Comcast who was unrelenting in the number of calls it placed to my house in hopes that I'd (a) pick up and (b)  subscribe to their phone service (and ditch Verizon). Every thirty minutes, the phone would ring with an 800 number that I've seen so many times before. When I wasn't looking, my wife wanted to know who they were and and called them back.

What most people don't know is that you can't block your caller ID when calling an 800 number. They pay the freight. They get to see your number (something to think about the next time before you call that 800 number). I'm rather a certain that placing a call to an 800-based telemarketing number is like reply to spam. It's like saying "Yes, we're home. Please bother us" (aka "hurt me, hurt me"). 

But the telemarketing caller that really got under my skin was from Boost Mobile. Boost Mobile is apparently a Nextel brand (which itself is a subsidiary of Sprint) and not only did it call, it left an automated message (the one I would have heard had I picked up the phone) in our voice mail box that made it seem as though some phone service we were subscribed to was about to get terminated. My wife heard the message and got worried but when we re-listened to it, we theorized that it was a scam because of how it repeats the 800 number. Now you know why I mentioned that bit about how caller ID can't be blocked when you call an 800 number. By scaring people into thinking that their phone service is in jeopardy of being shut off, Boost Mobile can harvest your phone number when you call them to find out if there's really a problem. Now, they've got a real active number of someone concerned about their phone service to call back and telemarket to.

To give you a sense of what I heard, I offer you both a podcast recording of the message that was left on my voice mail as well as a transcription (below).

Using the Flash-based player above, you can stream the podcast directly to your desktop, download it, or if you're already subscribed to ZDNet's IT Matters series of podcasts, it should appear automatically on your desktop/notebook or portable audio playback device (depending on how you have your podcatcher configured). For more information on how to tune into ZDNet's podcasts, check our How-To.

Here is a transcription of a voice mail I received: 

Boost Mobile Messaging Service: Hey...it's Boost Mobile at 1-866-601-0447. I'm giving you a quick call about your account. We noticed that your account balance has been at a zero balance for almost two weeks now and soon your account will be shut off. And if your phone is shut off, you will lose your phone number and have to pay a reactivation fee to continue using your phone. But don't sweat it...to continue your service with Boost, it's easy. Just purchase a re-Boost card at one of our many retail locations like Walmart, Target, BestBuy and Seven Eleven. And recharge your Boost account to add more air time. For more information on Boost mobile or to talk to us about your account, call us at 1-866-601-0447. Thanks from Boost Mobile...Goodbye.

Was the call as nefarious as I'm assuming it to have been (I am a cynic after all). To find out, I took the bait and called the 800 number. The agent I spoke to -- Srica -- declined my request to  record my conversation with her (I'm obeying the laws here). So, unfortunately, that call will not be a part of this podcast. When I told her I didn't have a Boost Mobile phone, Srica apologized and said that I should not have been called in the first place. She explained that sometimes, when people get a Boost Mobile phone, they furnish incorrect contact information (I'll be in some cases, this is done on purpose). She then offered to escalate the issue to her superiors who are apparently authorized to remove my phone number from Booth Mobile's system so that I would not receive any more calls. I was actually pretty stunned by this offer. Usually, getting your name removed from a system is an act of God that your lawyer has to beg for. But there was one more catch: I had to give her my phone number. I hesitated, but capitulated. Srica never dove into a sales pitch and apologized one more time before I hung the phone up (at the very least, Srica gets an A for customer service).

So, where did that number go and will I ever hear from Boost Mobile again? I guess only time will tell. 

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