Hoaxes & Rumors

Are Cell Phone Numbers Going Public?

Are Cell Phone Numbers Going Public?

A rumor claims that cell phones are soon “going public” and will lead to a flood of calls by telemarketers. Today we’ll take a closer look at this rumor.

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The warning about cell phones released to telemarketers is untrue, but the Do Not Call registry does exist.

First, let’s take a look at what is being claimed:

Cell Phone Numbers Go Public
January 25, 2013
Cell phone numbers go public this month. All cell phone numbers are being released to telemarketing companies. You will start to receive sales calls. YOU WILL BE CHARGED FOR THESE CALLS. To prevent this, call the following number from your cell phone: 888-382-1222. It is the National DO NOT CALL list. It will take less than a minute. It blocks your number for five (5) years. You must call from the cell phone number you want to have blocked. You cannot call from a different phone number.

Help others by passing this on:

The graphic below circulated heavily in 2013.

cell numbers going public

Old rumor

The national Do Not Call registry was implemented in 2004 and revised in 2007. Many of the statements in the rumor above have been circulating for about as long as the registry has existed.

The Federal Trade Commission published a rebuttal to many of these arguments in 2006. Of particular note is that cell phones are not treated differently than land lines and also that no phone numbers are being “released to telemarketing companies.”

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As the FCC points out, even if a wireless 411 directory were to be created – as some have attempted – it would still be illegal for most telemarketers to call wireless phones. Specifically, it is illegal for telemarketers to use auto-dialers to call cell phones, meaning they could still call you by manually dialing your cell number, but it probably isn’t worth their time given the large volume of numbers they would have to dial this way.

Expires in 5 Years?

The rumor incorrectly states that registration will only last for five years. The official Do Not Call website clearly states:

Your registration will not expire. Telephone numbers placed on the National Do Not Call Registry will remain on it permanently due to the Do-Not-Call Improvement Act of 2007, which became law in February 2008.

The FCC also notes, “There is also no longer any need to re-register a number – it will stay on the national Do-Not-Call list until you cancel your registration or discontinue service.”

This erroneous claim refers back to the original version of the registry in which there was a 5-year expiration. This has not been the case for over six years.

This is another version of the warning being circulated. It has the exact same text, but the graphic is different.

This is another version of the warning being circulated. It has the same text as earlier versions, but the graphic is different.

Do Not Call Registry

The second half of the warning is mostly accurate in that you can call 888-382-1222 or visit donotcall.gov to place your number on the national Do Not Call registry. As stated, however, registration doesn’t expire, and you can register both land lines and cell phones.

There are telemarketers who do not adhere to the Do Not Call list, and the FCC suggests filing a complaint if you feel you have received a call which you believe violates the do-not-call list. In a high profile case, Sprint was fined $7.5 million in 2014 for not implementing do-not-call rules. After the ruling, Sprint noted it had invested “significant capital” to improve do-not-call compliance.

Even if you are on the do-not-call list, some businesses can still call you. These include political organizations, charities, surveyors, and organizations with which you have done business in the last 18 months.

Bottom Line

The Do Not Call registry does exist, but cell phone numbers are not being released to telemarketers, and there is no need to re-register once you are on the list. Moreover, it remains illegal for most telemarketers to call cell phones.

Updated July 8, 2015
Originally published March 2013

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