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The Voice Mail Scam

August 4th, 2009 · 4 Comments

Have you ever thought about the long instructions you get when you reach the voice mail for a mobile phone?

“The number you have dialed, 480 555-1234 is not available. You can leave a message after the tone. After leaving your message, you can hang up, or press pound for other options. To leave a numeric page, press 1. To leave a callback number, press 7.”

That’s actually a composite of the instructions from T-Mobile, Verizon and AT&T.

Think about it: These days, who needs to be told that they can leave a message after the tone? Who needs to be told that they can hang up after leaving the message? They have my phone number on CallerID; why would I leave a callback number? Does anybody ever leave a numeric page on a cell phone?

On T-Mobile it’s 17 seconds from the start of the message to the beep. On Verizon it’s 18 seconds.

Why doesn’t the message simply say, “Please leave a message after the tone”?, short and clear. Or when I set up my own message, why is it still followed by the carrier’s message?

The answer is money. The longer they keep the line open, the more you have to pay. Cell phone executives have admitted that it’s all about revenue per customer, and that long voice mail instructions are part of that strategy.

David Pogue, technical blogger for the NY Times, has a column on this and other complaints about cell phones (Why do text messages cost 10 to 20 cents a minute to send, when they cost the phone company almost nothing? If part of the cost of the monthly bill is to subsidize your cheap phone, why doesn’t the bill decrease when your contract expires? )

Oh, by the way, each carrier has a key you can press that will immediately take you to the beep, but they don’t advertise them and they are different for each carrier. If you press one carriers key during another’s message, who knows what might happen. However, someone has discovered that if you press 1 * #, with a pause to listen for the tone between each keypress, you can safely bypass all carrier’s message:

Press 1. If it’s Sprint, it will work immediately.
If not, press *. If it’s Verizon you’ll get the beep.
If not, press # and that will take care of T-Mobile and Cingular.

AT&T is in there somewhere too.

Tags: Computers, Tech & Science · Opinion

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Donna // Aug 5, 2009 at 6:10 pm

    I’m also very annoyed by the long VM. I have tried pushing skip buttons, but obviously not in the correct order. I’m going to memorize these now and bypass the 17 second message every time from now on.

    Thanks Daryl!!

  • 2 Mom // Aug 5, 2009 at 11:09 pm

    I got a card today from Quest, saying that I am such a good customer that I get free long distance for six months. I’m sure there is a catch or other limitations, but it’s such small print that I can’t read it. This is not cell phone, just a regular old phone. I can read that it’s weekends only, but I wonder what else.

  • 3 Alice Swartz // Aug 6, 2009 at 5:54 am

    Awesome. These long messages have annoyed me for years. I just called my own cell phone (Cingular) from my home phone and as soon as my own voice mail message began, I pressed
    1 * # (with no pause) and it went directly to my voice mail.

  • 4 Don // Aug 6, 2009 at 10:30 am

    Cingular is AT&T now I believe. Great info Daryl.