FTC Issues Cellphone Spam Alert

If you've received an email telling you that your cell phone is about to be assaulted by telemarketing calls as a result of a new cell phone number database, rest assured that this is not the case. Telemarketing to cell phone numbers has always been illegal in most cases and will continue to be so.

In response to recent email campaigns urging consumers to place their cell phone numbers on the National Do Not Call Registry, the Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission have issued an advisory to give consumers the facts.

The advisory describes one email making the rounds, saying "JUST A REMINDER...In a few weeks, cell phone numbers are being released to telemarketing companies and you will start to receive sale 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 only take a minute of your time. It blocks your number for five (5) years. PASS THIS ON TO ALL YOUR FRIENDS..."

Another version claims "The Federal Trade Commission has set up a "do not call" list. It is called a cell phone registry. To be included on the "do not call" list, you must call from the number you wish to register."

FCC regulations prohibit telemarketers from using automated dialers to call cell phone numbers, and since automated dialers are standard tools used by the industry, most telemarketers are barred from calling consumers on their cell phones without their consent.

While the federal government does not maintain a national cell phone registry, personal cell phone users have always been able to add their numbers to the National Do Not Call Registry — the same Registry consumers use to register their land lines — either online at www.donotcall.gov or by calling toll-free 1-888-382-1222 from the telephone number they wish to register. Registrations become effective within 31 days of signing up and are active for five years. There is no cut-off date or deadline for registrations.

Business-to-business calls are not covered under the Registry, however, making business cellphone users vulnerable to telemarketers and the charges these calls would incur.

Concerns over cellphone spam have recently escalated as the rollout of a planned "wireless 411" directory looms closer. According to service provider Qsent's website, "In 2006, a new Wireless 411 Service will provide cell phone users the choice and the opportunity to list their cell phone numbers in the same nationwide voice 411 service they use today for their landline phones."