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Wireless do-not-call deadline a hoax

Rumor keeps on living

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POSTED: September 14, 2009 9:33 a.m.
For every advancement in technology, it seems a new trouble is sure to follow, and cell phones are not exempt from this scenario. Though they enjoyed anonymity for dozens of years, cell phone numbers may soon be doomed to enter the public sphere, and with such publicity comes the unwanted attention of telemarketers.
But how much of this problem is fact, and how much is fiction?
The issue of telemarketing scams and harassment is real enough that the federal government passed a law last year that provided citizens with a means to guard themselves from pushy telemarketers.
According to the National Do Not Call Registry, once you register a phone number, after roughly one month, telemarketers will no longer be able to call that number. This is a permanent registration thanks to the Do-Not-Call Improvement Law, enacted in February 2008. As of Sept. 30, 2008, Georgia residents had contributed more than 5 million numbers to the list.
But the timing and application of this issue — specifically, whether cell phone numbers will actually move into the public-access realm — has prompted online rumor-buster Snopes.com to dedicate an entry to it. Snopes has declared the rumor as false.
That’s right, false.
The rumor has been floating for several years. E-mails urging users to register their cell phone numbers to prevent telemarketing calls go back as far as 2004. Consumers have voiced these concerns to the Federal Trade Commission, which sponsors the National Do Not Call Registry.
“We used to get a lot of those calls,” Mitch Katz, FTC public affairs specialist, said. “But I think people now have the information they need. There’s a mix of information in those e-mails. Some of it is true, and some of it is false.”
Snopes research claims the rumor about cell phone numbers going public grew from an early move by major carriers to create a nationwide cell phone list for directory assistance — cell phone users know this as “411.” Currently, no public directory of cell phone numbers exists.
“We do not think consumers need to sign up their cell phone numbers,” Katz said, but even if you do register your cell number with the national registry, know that a larger protection from telemarketing comes from the Federal Communications Commission.
FCC regulations already prevent most telemarketing calls from being made to cell phones, and Katz said any consumer who does receive telemarketing calls on a cell phone should notify the FCC and the FTC.
There is no deadline for registering, and you can check to see if your previously registered number still shows up in the database. If you do receive calls from telemarketers more than 31 days after registering your number, you may file a complaint through the program’s Web site, www.donotcall.gov.
 

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