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Verizon Wireless on Spammers' Trail

In any language, unwanted telephone solicitation, or spam, is a crime, according to Verizon Wireless.

The company said it filed two lawsuits against three Florida-based telemarketers for the illegal solicitation of its customers.

Verizon Wireless is asking a Somerville, N.J., Superior Court to stop Miami-based All Star Vacations and Marketing Group, Orlando's Travel and Tours Marketing, and Cambridge Marketing and Financial Services of Deland, Fla., from soliciting its customers.

Between November 2005 and December 2005, All Star Vacations and Marketing Group along with Travel and Tours Marketing, made more than 500,000 Spanish-language pre-recorded calls to Verizon Wireless, Verizon spokesperson Debra Lewis told internetnews.com.

According to Verizon, this is believed to be the first involving Spanish-language messages. Spanish-language spam more than doubled during 2005, growing to 13 percent of all spam, according to TrendMicro, an anti-virus software firm.

Callers were informed they had won a resort trip and instructed them to call a toll-free number to claim the prize.

When Verizon called the number, they were told by the Spanish-speaking representative that 100 people had been picked and they needed to provide a credit card number with expiration date, Lewis said.

Although the messages were recorded in Spanish, "Verizon customers all across the country, including California and Oregon," were called, according to Lewis.

The second lawsuit claims Cambridge Marketing and Financial Services made 55,000 calls to Verizon Wireless customers telling them they had won a Ford Explorer and asking that they call a toll-free number to obtain their award.

Along with the injunction, the carrier is asking for unspecified money damages. The federal Consumer Telephone Protection Act forbids telemarketers to use auto-dialers when the recipient must pay for incoming calls.

It costs Verizon Wireless' customer service center $6.50 for each customer calling to complain of spam, Lewis said, adding the federal law allows for $500 in damages per call.

Companies named in the lawsuits could not be reached for comment.

Earlier this month Verizon won $10,000 from Passport Holidays, after the Ormond Beach, Fla., company sent the carrier's customers 98,000 text messages informing them they had won a Bahamas cruise.