The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Smut mail floods the cell

I am 24 male my e-mail I want to be your friend. Waiting for your reply.

That was the first ‘feeler’, via short-messaging service (SMS) to a young woman. Every day, over the following weeks, would see a call on her cellphone disconnected before it could be answered. Then, the harasser was confronted — on phone, of course. “This is not my cellphone. It was just lying here and I answered it,” said a young male voice.

There are options aplenty — and growing — for tech-savvy teasers. Cellphone to cellphone, Internet to cellphone, landline to cellphone… With caller-line identification available with most services, it would seem easy to track down a person calling on a cellphone. But beyond the phone number, there is nothing else one can really find out.

Command and Airtel, the two private cellphone service providers in the city, have a clear policy in this regard: Only if the user files a complaint with the police will they aid in the investigation. No information about the true identity of a cellphone-user will be passed on otherwise. “We do believe that junk messages are on the rise. But we cannot disclose any details about our subscriber unless the complaint is routed through the cops,” say spokespersons for the two cell operators.

If the messages are sent from the Net, even this option is ruled out, as there is no easy way of tracking the sender. “I was receiving strange stuff from a man messaging from a website. It was quite disgusting and unnerving, but I had no way of finding out who he was or where in the world he was messaging from,” says a city-based public relations executive.

You are my fantasy man, please…” It’s not eve-teasing alone. An occasional Adam, too, is bearing the brunt of new-age harassment. As this message flashing on a young professional’s cellphone screen proves. When the sender was called, she denied any knowledge of the message sent. Adds a one young man employed by an NGO: “I have been receiving messages with crude sexual overtones from a number I have never seen before, but what do I do'”

Most recipients of this rubbish on the SMS have been just erasing the message and moving on. “We have not received any such complaint, but we would treat it in a similar fashion to crank calls made on a landline,” says Soumen Mitra, deputy commissioner, detective department. “If someone lodges a complaint, we will definitely get in touch with Command or Airtel to track down the culprit.”

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