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January 23, 2006

FTC Says Cell Phone E-Mail Is Hoax



Courtesy of TechWeb News

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) tried to calm jittery cell phone users by issuing an advisory last week telling them that they don't need to register their mobile number with the agency's Do-Not-Call Registry.

A heavily circulated e-mail that claims cell phone numbers will be for sale to telemarketers has gained so much traction that the FTC felt it necessary to debunk the hoax. "Contrary to the e-mail, cell phone numbers are NOT being released to telemarketers, and you will NOT soon be getting telemarketing calls on your cell phone," the FTC said in the advisory published on its Web site.

"Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations prohibit telemarketers from using automated dialers to call cell phone numbers. Automated dialers are standard in the industry, so most telemarketers are barred from calling consumers on their cell phones without their consent," the statement went on.

The e-mail first surfaced in the spring of 2005, but recently resurfaced.

Among those duped by the myth was Carl Marcellino, a N.Y. state senator (R-Syosset), whose office last week sent out a warning that mobile numbers were on the verge of being put on the block.

The e-mail might have seemed legitimate to more people last week as news reports surfaced of brokers illegally selling cell and land line phone records. On Friday, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed a lawsuit against one of the brokers, Florida-based 1st Source Information Specialists, which operates a Web site called LocateCell.com.

Also last week, the FCC warned both 1st Source and the operator of another other Web site, DataFind.org, that they faced fines of up to $97,500 if they didn't immediately comply with earlier subpoenas. Both sites are suspected of illegally obtaining cell phone records.

The FTC's Do-Not-Call Registry does accept cell phone numbers, the agency reminded consumers in the online alert, but it added "that it is not necessary to register cell phone numbers to be protected from most telemarketing calls to cell phones."

Consumers can sign up with the registry at this FTC-sponsored site.

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