FTC reminder: Skip cell phone numbers on 'Do Not Call' list

Federal regs already prohibit most telemarketing to mobile phones

Viral e-mails urging cell-phone users to hurry up and register with a government "Do Not Call" list to avoid advertising spam are still circulating five years after federal officials first told consumers they could basically ignore the message.

The Federal Trade Commission in July once again issued a consumer alert noting that people don't need to register a cell phone or wireless phone number on the National Do Not Call Registry despite viral e-mail messages suggesting otherwise. The alert notes that people may place their cell phone numbers on the registry, but it also notes that federal regulations already prohibit most telemarketing targeted to cell phones. Similar information is listed at the top of the FTC's Do Not Call information page.

Some telemarketing to cell phones has been conducted in violation of federal regulations, and the FTC Web site includes notices of actions the agency has taken over the years against violators, who rely on automated dialers to reach cell phones.

Despite what the viral e-mails say, the government is not releasing cell phone numbers to telemarketers, according to the latest FTC alert, and there is no deadline for registering a cell phone number on the Do Not Call Registry.

The alert notes that Federal Communications Commission regulations prohibit telemarketers from using automated dialers to call cell phones.

Mitchell Katz, an FTC spokesman, said one of the viral e-mails received this week by Computerworld was similar to other messages that have circulated for the past five years. The Do Not Call Registry was created in June 2003. Katz called the content in the e-mail an "urban myth that's been around since about 2005." Despite the July alert, there was no clear evidence that more of the e-mails had been circulating lately.

The FTC operates a just one Do Not Call registry for all phones, both wired and wireless. Registration is possible though the agency's Web site. Users must also respond to a confirmation e-mail to activate the capability. Registration can also be done over the phone by calling 888-382-1222 from the phone that is being registered.

The viral e-mail received at Computerworld said, "Remember: cell phone numbers go public this month ... all cell phone numbers are being released to telemarketing companies and you will start to receive sales calls...you will be charged for these calls."

The e-mail concludes by urging registration with the Do Not Call Registry.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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