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News Editor

Everyone’s against ‘pretexting’

Feb 02, 20062 mins
Data Center

BellSouth’s prolific public relations department was quick to pounce yesterday with a proclamation of support for legislation filed by Reps. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., and Jay Inslee, D-Wash. The bill would criminalize the so-called pretexting that con artists use to procure personal phone records from carriers. Those records are in turn sold on the Internet. The how-tos of pretexting were discussed in this recent ‘Net Buzz column.

From BellSouth: “The following statement may be attributed to Herschel Abbott, BellSouth vice president governmental affairs:

“This bill protects consumers by going after the con artists.  That will go a long way towards stopping illicit efforts to obtain other people’s phone records.  Under the legislation, identity thieves and data brokers who try to trick phone companies into revealing call records will be fined and jailed.  This legislation is modeled after a law that has been effective in keeping bank records safe.  This bill and similar Senate legislation (S. 2178) should be passed quickly by Congress and sent to the President for signature.”

Absolutely. We’re talking a couple of unanimous votes there and a lightning quick George W. Bush.

But legislation is only part of the solution, at best. As privacy expert Rob Douglas explained to me in that column, carriers could do a lot more themselves to minimize the risk that your private phone records will be sold online. Better training of customer service reps, for one, but Douglas said much of this problem could be solved if carriers simply insisted upon PIN- and password-protecting customer account information.

I’ve just asked BellSouth about that and will let you know what they have to say. 

News Editor

In addition to my editing duties, I have written Buzzblog since January, 2006 and wrote the 'Net Buzz column in Network World's dearly departed print edition for 13 years. Feel free to e-mail me at