RealTime IT News

Hosting Firms Targeted After Late-Night Phone Spam

Just who is Internet Solutions? And why are they calling me at 3 a.m.? That's the question hundreds of people are asking after being rousted from their sleep in recent weeks by an automated telemarketing call from the Web hosting firm.

The recorded message offers a free, 450 MHz computer and Web site design in exchange for signing a 24-month Web hosting contract at $69 per month.

"Three o'clock in the morning, I get yanked out of bed by my pager, which was on scream, so it woke my wife as well," said Phil Newlon, a network engineer for Wendy's International. "When I found out it was just an ad, we were mad."

Not only are the calls irritating, they're against the law, according to a spokesperson with the Federal Trade Commission. Under U.S. telemarketing rules, it is illegal to telemarket to residences before 8:00 am or after 9 pm in the time zone where the recipient is located.

But that hasn't stopped Internet Solutions' bot from making its late-night sales rounds. Last month, the solicitations from the company generated over 100 angry complaints to Internet Solutions, a Web design and hosting firm in Memphis, Tenn.

According to president Ron Perel, the firm has nothing to do with the telespam, but he's had trouble explaining that to skeptical callers confused by the generic-sounding company name.

"There were some nurses, some light house operators, and almost all of them were called between 1 and 5 in the morning. One person had a really old mother with heart problems who woke up in the middle of the night, another had a baby who it woke up. I heard a lot of really bad stories," said Perel.

Unlike the recent controversial telemarketing campaign by domain registrar Bulk Register.com, the Internet Solutions telespam does not appear to be drawing from Network Solutions' database of domain registrants.

Other Web hosting firms with unfortunately similar-sounding names are getting heat as well. Blake Harper, marketing manager for AIS Media of Atlanta, formerly known as Advanced Internet Solutions, said upset call recipients used search engines to locate AIS and register their wrath about the calls.

"We need this to stop immediately. The calls are overloading our system," said Harper.

Meanwhile, Advanced Internet Solutions in Scottsdale, Ariz., has received numerous misdirected complaints, according to President Arnie Wolen.

"I told them we don't have an 800 number, it's someone else making the calls and they're generating a lot of bad will for us," said Wolen.

Similarly, after being deluged with angry complaints, officials at Internet Solutions Inc. of Ridgeland, Miss., have placed a notice on the front door of the company's site, stating that the firm does not engage in telemarketing and is not the source of the annoying calls.

Only one similar-sounding hosting firm contacted by InternetNews reported no complaints from the recent telemarketing campaign. Representatives of Strategic Internet Solutions of Lancaster, Calif., Friday denied any knowledge of the late-night calls, and referred further inquiries to the company's owner, Randy Thomas of Toronto.

The toll-free number given for Thomas matches that provided at the end of the Internet Solutions' phone solicitation. Calls to the number Friday generated a recorded message that states the company is receiving a "higher than anticipated calling volume."

Several messages left by InternetNews were not returned Friday.