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Your Cellphone Is Still Safe From Telemarketers

Q. Why are cellphone numbers now being released to telemarketers?

A. They aren’t, so don’t believe those e-mail warnings that urge you to list your phone on the National Do Not Call Registry. The e-mails suggest that failing to register could subject you to an onslaught of sales pitches, and claim you’ll be responsible for the resulting phone charges.

These warnings first surfaced in 2003, and the latest round began in September. They appear authentic, because they typically instruct recipients to call 1-888-382-1222, which is the genuine contact number for the Do Not Call list. That could explain why these alerts are frequently forwarded by friends with good intentions.

It’s possible the e-mails got their start after wireless companies explored whether to create a directory assistance service for business cellphones. The idea never got off the ground, but it did succeed it spawning a panicky wave of misinformed warnings.

This time around, however, there’s a clue that the e-mails are echoes from the past. They incorrectly say that a Do Not Call registration is good for five years. Since February 2008, all registrations are permanent unless you take the number off yourself.

The bottom line: While you can register your cellphone on the Do Not Call list by phone or by going online, there’s very little reason to do so.

The reasons: Most telemarketers use automated dialers, and federal regulations prohibit their use on cellphones. And since Sept. 1, new rules bar most prerecorded telemarketing calls to any phone without written permission. Violators face a $16,000 fine per call.

Meanwhile, legitimate telemarketers who make live sales calls have vowed not to place them to consumers’ cellphones.

Sid Kirchheimer writes about health and consumer issues. 

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