The message sounds deceptively helpful: “All cell phone numbers are being released to telemarketing companies and you will start to receive sales calls,” the email states. To prevent an onslaught of such calls, the email suggests calling the National Do Not Call Registry, and provides a number to do so.
The problem? The email is a hoax. According to the Federal Communications Commission, it’s illegal for telemarketers to place automated calls to cell phones, and there are no plans for that to change. These emails have been circulating for several years, apparently fueled by a fear that the creation of a mobile phone directory will lead to a proliferation of telemarketing calls. The idea that more calls will go to cell phones is particularly alarming, since many consumers would be charged for those calls.
Here’s what you need to know about the Do Not Call Registry:
1. The safest way to register is to visit the official website, www.donotcall.gov, or call the number listed on the website, 888-382-1222, as opposed to following any directions received in an email, which can point to scam sites. The Federal Trade Commission warns that some scammers offer to sign people up for the registry for a fee; consumers should steer clear of such offers and register themselves. Signing up is free.
2. Registration is permanent, and not limited to five years as many emails claim. The Do-Not-Call Improvement Act of 2007 specifies that phone numbers stay on the list until they are disconnected or reassigned to a different person. (Consumers can take their own numbers off the list at any time.)
3. There is not a separate Do Not Call Registry for cell phones. There is one registry, and you can use it to register a landline or a cell phone. As mentioned above, automated telemarketing calls to cell phones are illegal anyway, but some consumers still prefer to register their cell phone numbers.
4. There is no deadline approaching for signing up for the Do Not Call Registry. You can register numbers at any time.
5. Telemarketers have 31 days to stop calling numbers once they are registered.
6. Registering won’t stop all telemarketing calls. That’s because phone surveys, political organizations, and charities are exempt from the do-not-call list. Any company with whom you have a “business relationship,” because you made a purchase, for example, is allowed to call you, too.
7. You can complain. If you think a telemarketer is violating the law by continuing to call you even after you placed your number on the do-not-call list, you can lodge a complaint at the donotcall.gov website. Telemarketers can be fined as much as $16,000.
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