Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Cell Phone Spy

In Korea, cell phones have their own area code(s). In the past, each major cell phone company had a unique area code, say 010, 011, 016, 017, etc. However, recently the government is transitioning ALL cell phones to the 010 area code, as part of the number portability plan (similar to what we have in the USA, where you can move your number between different carriers). When someone buys a new phone or service, and has an non-010 area code, they change that person's number to be in the 010 area code.

So for example, say I had the phone number 017-123-4567. When getting a new phone, they would try to assign a new number as close as possible. I might get something like this: 010-9123-4567. So, suppose you sent me a text message using my old number. For some period of time (say a month?) the text message would be routed to my new number, and you would receive a text message showing my new number. (Bear with me, there IS a point to all this....)

A few days ago, I received a text message that appeared to be a change of number message. The odd thing was I didn't know him! He wasn't in my phone's address book, and I didn't remember anyone with his name. I was about to send a reply message asking who he was, when I realized the message hid the complete phone number: something like 010-1234-****. Well, I just ignored it.

There is another service here in Korea, using cell phone text messages. When you use your credit card, you receive a text message within a few minutes from the credit card company, showing the name of the vendor and the amount of your purchase! It's a pretty cool feature, and allows you to know almost immediately if your card is stolen and someone tries to run up a bill. And I don't think there's any charge for this service, either. (No, I don't have it myself, although I do get a text message from the bank when a deposit is made).

Last night, I received another text message with this fellow's name. Turns out it was one of these credit card purchase notices - looks like he bought a package of cigarettes with his credit card last night. Apparently he has accidentally registered my cell phone number with his credit card company, and I'll be receiving notices whenever he makes a purchase! Furthermore, my Korean teacher told me this happened with her son's phone before. She called the credit card company, and they had no method to correct this type of mistake! It only stopped when her son's phone number was changed. At least I will be amused following the purchase of a complete stranger.

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