My recent column of “cheap long distance” was ill-advised (so I won’t compound the error by linking to it) for two or three reasons.

For those of you who missed it, that was the column where I basically just passed on to you a piece of junk e-mail I had gotten with one of those “10-10” numbers offering very cheap long distance. “Even if this one doesn’t make sense for you,” I concluded, “isn’t this a good time to haul out your phone bill, try to make sense of it, and find a way to cut it significantly?”

Well, that part I am happy to stand by. But as to passing on the e-mail, Larry Jensen wrote: “Why did you ever publicize this ‘offer’? I don’t care how legitimate it might otherwise be, I would never do business with anyone who spammed my e-mail box, nor do I recommend that anyone else do so. You’ve expressed a principled position that any junk mail you receive goes into your wastebasket, unopened. I would hope you’d have at least as much contempt for those who see the Internet as a free pipeline for invading our privacy.”

And Brooks Hilliard added: “You should NEVER (need I be clearer?) respond to an e-mail solicitation, much less publicize it. There are some very good reasons for this: (a) If you respond to one, you’ll be put on the responsive list, which will increase the amount of spam you receive. (b) It only encourages them.” (Brooks notes the famous old lady who, when asked whom she’d voted for, replied: “I never vote … it only encourages ’em.”) “But (c) the most important reason is that studies have apparently shown that there is a much higher percentage of fraud by spammers than by merchants who advertise in other ways. It makes sense: (1) they’re breaking the terms of service rules of the ISPs they use to send out the spam, so you know they’re not 100% on the up and up to begin with, (2) they have no known address so you can’t send Lenny out to break their face if they don’t deliver, and (3) their e-mail addresses are either fake, untraceable or both (like the bigfoot.com/usa.net address on this one).”

To wit, Tomas Saulys added: “The number in the spam message is 10-10-629. You can confirm that this belongs to a company called CTS/Worldxchange by looking at their web site: http://www.worldxchange.com/products/pennypln.asp. Then read all about them at: http://www.thedigest.com/shame/cts.html.”

This is a bit scary, because these folks get a terrible review. So if you did decide to try 10-10-629, keep a close watch on your phone bill the next few months and jump on any shenanigans fast. Then again, on the same site, AT&T is accused of forgery, so it’s possible the current charges are overdone. But why risk it? Not least because (as several of you were good enough to point out to me), if you go to www.broadpoint.com, you can register for free long distance. That’s right: free long distance.

The catch is that you have to listen (“or pretend to listen,” as one of you put it) to a 15-second commercial for each two minutes of free calling.

After you register and tell them about yourself – so they can gauge what 15-second spots most effectively to inflict – you just dial 1-800-FREEWAY, punch in your PIN, and … free long distance.

I’m sure these ads would get annoying real fast. And I’m not yet clear what happens after the first two minutes. Do you and the party you’ve called BOTH have to listen to the next ad? But if it works from pay phones, I can see it being more than a little helpful when you’re short of a quarter. I’m eagerly awaiting my PIN to try this out.

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Chances are, you already knew about www.broadpoint.com. It’s the kind of thing that spreads across cyberspace like a flash of light. But some things are too good not to risk repeating. And so I leave you with one more:

5759    Year according to Jewish calendar
4696   Year according to Chinese calendar (years since 2637 B.C.)
——
1063    Total # of years that Jews went without Chinese food

 

HOUSEKEEPING NOTE: Currently, an alternative route to this column is www.andrewtobias.com. As of February 1, that will be the ONLY way to reach it. To keep reading, please adjust your bookmark. Also, please note my new e-address: atobias@andrewtobias.com.

 

 

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