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This is related to usa - Should I use a "burner" phone when visiting the US? - Travel Stack Exchange but not for border control reasons.


I did a road trip through the USA, from Canada, for 5 days.

During that trip I:

  • signed up for data roaming with my Canadian cellular provider. The roaming was done on a large US cellular provider (one whose news coverage is usually rather unflattering). Therefore they knew my number.

  • only gave out my phone number twice to hotels, in response to "where can we contact you?" questions. I usually purposefully switch the last 2 digits of my phone number to avoid spamming (e.g. 37 rather than 73) but figured I wanted to be notified if I forgot something.

Upon my return, I have easily 10-20x the usual number of spam robocalls. I have an unlisted number and only give it out when needed so I usually don't get bothered much. These spam calls are from numbers not in my contacts, don't leave any messages, not easily found on reverse lookups. From different cities in British Columbia, where I don't know anyone, but also from other provinces.

I usually have 3-4 of those a month, at most. First day I was back in Canada, I had 7 or 8 and have been getting a few a day since. Not a huge hassle, the phone is set up to send unrecognized numbers straight to voice mail, without ringing.

Is this something that can be expected from only giving out your number twice and being signed up for roaming? I assume that one of the hotels or the cellular company passed on my number to marketing third parties.

I am not expecting a definitive answer, but, well, if other travelers have had the same experience we can all learn to be more careful when traveling in the US. And if it didn't happen to anyone else, I'll chalk it up to a coincidence.

P.S. I assume this would be more likely to happen to Canadians as I can't see the attraction for US companies to enter into lots of marketing list arrangements with random European or Asian countries.


Update 10 weeks later. The unknown caller calls only ended up lasting for about 2 weeks after my return and their volume has now dropped back to its very infrequent average so this does seem related to my trip and not some otherwise changed circumstances. If I had to guess, my number was sold on to a few shady operators who learned not to bother after getting ignored from different spoofed numbers.

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  • 10
    (Borat accent) US of A, beste countri ona planet!
    – WhatHiFi
    Feb 22 at 12:55
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    "I usually purposefully switch the last 2 digits of my phone number" -- that must make the owner of that phone number very happy indeed. And you complain about getting spammed.
    – Dan Mašek
    Feb 22 at 14:25
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    "I usually purposefully switch the last 2 digits of my phone number" they've thought of that. You're achieving nothing. Billions of dollars a year are spent on the world's greatest software engineers and software scientists to make spam work.
    – Fattie
    Feb 22 at 14:52
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    I live in the US and I give my number out as little as possible. I've seen a significant uptick in the number of spam calls/texts over the last 24 months or so. If I don't recognize the number, I let it go to voice mail. If it's important and legitimate, they'll leave a message and I'll call back. 99.99% of the time, there's no message. I'm always amused by the calls/texts saying my FifthThird Bank debit card has been locked - I've never had an account with them and don't think I've ever even used one of their ATM machines. I guess some people respond and make it worth it...
    – FreeMan
    Feb 22 at 15:23
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    I just set my phone to automatically send all unknown numbers to voicemail.
    – JonathanReez
    Feb 22 at 21:33

2 Answers 2

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I assume that one of the hotels or the cellular company passed on my number to marketing third parties.

This.

In the US, there's very little protection for personal information and it is being traded by everyone and everywhere. If you gave your information to a US merchant, they'll sell it. In some States you can restrict who they can share it with, but you'd need to proactively do that and they'd tell you "we'll stop sharing it within 30 days", which is essentially meaningless. In California you can demand to delete your personal information, under certain conditions, but not in other States. Which is also meaningless in this case since they already have sold it.

p.s. I assume this would be more likely to happen to Canadians as I can't see the attraction for US companies to enter into lots of marketing list arrangements with random European or Asian countries.

It is as likely to happen to Canadians as to anyone else. But with regard to robocalls, because of the numbering system and costs, it is likely that Canadians would be affected much more than anyone else.

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  • Comments have been moved to chat; please do not continue the discussion here. Before posting a comment below this one, please review the purposes of comments. Comments that do not request clarification or suggest improvements usually belong as an answer, on Travel Meta, or in Travel Chat. Comments continuing discussion may be removed.
    – Willeke
    Feb 26 at 5:21
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Lots of cell phone spamming after a trip to the US from Canada. Is this to be expected?

It's not exactly what you're looking for but I live in the US and have given out my number to 100+ vendors over my time here. I've checked my voicemail records and I estimate I get around 1 robocall a month (I set my phone to send all unknown numbers straight to voicemail). It used to be more frequent a few years ago but these days it's no longer a significant nuisance.

That being said, my number is registered on DoNotCall.gov, which probably helps reduce the amount of spam. They don't accept Canadian numbers unfortunately, so if you're already registered with the Canadian equivalent there's not much you can do.

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  • I'm registered with its Canadian equivalent, after the kinks got sorted out (initially the spammers were using it as a databank of active numbers ;-). I do wonder if donotcall (US) penalties apply to calling non-US numbers tho. Feb 23 at 2:29
  • @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica you're right, they don't take Canadian numbers unfortunately :/
    – JonathanReez
    Feb 23 at 2:34
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    Same. I live in the U.S. and have undoubtedly given my phone number to thousands of companies both all over the U.S. and around various parts of the world. I get fewer spam calls than OP mentioned getting in Canada before visiting the U.S. This is almost certainly a case of coincidence or OP's number getting on a spam list by other means, not one of 3 companies selling a phone number to scammers.
    – reirab
    Feb 24 at 4:50
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    @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica The Do Not Call Registry (or any country's equivalent thereof) rather by definition only affects legal companies conducting actual marketing (or otherwise non-criminal activity.) Scammers on another continent do not care whether or not they are violating your country's (or usually even their country's) data protection laws.
    – reirab
    Feb 24 at 5:18

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