July 11, 2008

E-Mails About Cell-Phone Do Not Call List Are Bogus

MONTGOMERY -- The timing of the e-mail is as predictable as the changing seasons.

Unsuspecting readers open an e-mail with the subject line, "Cell Numbers Go Public Tomorrow REMINDER," or similar wording. It follows with instructions on how to add your cell phone number to the national Do Not Call List to stop calls from telemarketers.

The message cautions that if you do not call the number and add your name to the Do Not Call List, telemarketers will call your previously unpublished cell phone number. You'll be the one picking up the bill for the minutes the marketers waste trying to get your business.

The e-mail is a hoax.

The message is almost identical to e-mail hoaxes about cell phone numbers that began circulating nationally as the federal government established the Do Not Call List about five years ago.

Snopes.com, a Web site established by researchers who do the homework needed to debunk and explain hoaxes and urban legends, said the latest e-mail hoax is like earlier versions.

Predictably, the latest version started showing up in e-mail in late June.

The timing is close to the time that restrictions against solicitations on the original Do Not Call List were to expire.

But the North Alabama version adds another wrinkle that falsely gives an added layer of credibility. The current e-mail includes the AT&T logo at the top of the page. Some readers thought AT&T sent the e-mail but the sender's e-mail address ends in AOL.com.

The sender's e-mail address should give readers a clue that the e-mail is bogus, AT&T Alabama spokeswoman Sue Sperry said. "If AT&T sent the e-mail, it would have an AT&T domain address."

Customers can, but do not need to register cell phone numbers with the Do Not Call List, Sperry said. "This is just another one of those urban myths that came about as a result of the Do Not Call List," she said

Sperry said people interested in learning more should go to the Federal Communications Commission Web site that contains detailed information about Do Not Call and regulations regarding cell phone privacy.

"I'm not saying that there will never be a public directory of cell phone numbers, but there is not one now and no plans to publish one," Sperry said.

The prank e-mail feeds on a concern by cell phone users afraid that they will end up with dozens of telemarketing sales calls that they do not want but for which they will pay.

No need to register

Snopes.com said there is no need or real value in registering cell phone numbers with the Do Not Call List.

The site's researchers compile information about suspected myths or urban legends and explain them on the Web site. The cell phone /Do Not Call connection contains entries and documentation as far back as 2004.

Contrary to what some of the e-mail campaigns are saying, the federal government does not maintain, and is not establishing, a separate Do Not Call List for wireless phone numbers. The Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission established the national Do Not Call List to allow consumers to reduce the number of unwanted telemarketing calls to their residential phones.

There is no plan to publish a directory of cellular telephone numbers.

Debunking hoaxes

--Wireless phone subscribers have always been able to add their personal wireless phone numbers to the national Do Not Call List, either online at www.donotcall.gov, or by calling toll-free  1-888-382-1222  from the phone number they wish to register.

--For more about urban legends on snopes.com, visit the Web site at www.snopes.com.