National Domestic Violence Hotline
Hang Up on Harassment: Dealing with Cellular Phone Abuse: What can I do if I am receiving harassing calls on my cell phone?
Cell phone carriers recommend that you contact the police first because they have expertise in personal safety. Forty-four states now have laws that explicitly include electronic forms of communication within stalking or harassment laws. For specifics please see www.ncsl.org/programs/lis/cip/stalk99.htm.
You should file a report with the police department. This is important to ensure that you can get a subpoena. A subpoena is a court order demanding the production of evidence. Filing a report is not a guarantee that you will get a subpoena however. Depending on the resources of your local police station, your complaint may not be fully investigated. We recommend that you file the report as a first step because most cell phone carriers will not reveal customer information, including a harasser’s identity, without a subpoena.
Some cell phone carriers have corporate security divisions that will work with you to stop the harassing calls. You should call customer service after filing your police report and determine if your phone carrier will assist you without a subpoena. If your phone carrier does not offer this option you can consider filing a civil suit against your harasser and subpoena the information from the phone carrier as part of your lawsuit.
Unlike traditional “land-line” phones, you are not able to block incoming callers to your cell phone. However, you should record the date, time, and description of each call, and save any messages you receive. This information is essential evidence in helping the police and the cell phone carrier investigate the harassment. If you think that the messages will be deleted before you are able to get a subpoena, it is a good idea to play the message into a tape recorder.
What can I do if I am receiving harassing text messages on my cell phone?
In addition to filing the police report, it is important to document the harassment. If you think the messages will be deleted before the investigation is complete, you may want to photograph the text messages.
Parents should be aware of the increase in electronic bullying through text messages. One option is to contact the carrier and ask that the text message function be disabled. Disabling this feature will block all messages though (it is not usually possible to block a single phone number). As cell phones are often an integral part of a child’s social life, you may not want to completely take away this option.
Experts suggest that turning off the text messaging function for a few days may be enough to discourage the harasser. Policies on blocking text messages vary by individual carrier, and your carrier may offer other options. Additionally, 14 states have laws regulating cell phones and pagers on school property. For specifics please see http://www.ncsl.org/programs/lis/legislation/pagersinschools.htm.
Often people use shorthand for text messages. If you are unsure of what the shorthand means, you can use the translator found at http://www.teenangels.org/.
You may file a complaint with the FCC by:
The FCC asks that you include the following in your complaint:
For additional information please see:
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