PHOENIX (AP) -- James Backen was at dinner in late March when he got a short message on his cell phone. When he checked, he discovered it was an advertisement from a local mortgage company.
"It kind of made me mad," Backen said. "And now it's going to show up on my phone bill."
Backen, a computer programmer, was one of thousands in the Phoenix area targeted by Acacia National Mortgage Corp. for the "wireless spam," a new twist on the junk e-mail that's become so commonplace on the Internet.
Spam can be sent to cell phones using the text-messaging services now offered as a standard feature by most wireless companies. And because the e-mail address for cell phones is usually a combination of the phone number and the carrier's name, wireless spam allows advertisers to target a specific audience by geographic location.
This new marketing tool is creating an outcry because it's not only intrusive, but costly. The recipient has to read the message to know who it's from, and then gets charged by the phone carrier for doing so.
"This will become a huge problem when text messages become more popular in the states," said Todd Bernier, a wireless technology analyst with Morningstar. "The industry is going to have to do something to control itself. People just won't tolerate it."
The industry and the government are puzzling over how to deal with wireless spam.
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