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Will telemarketers soon be allowed to start calling cellphones?

Myth: Cellphone numbers will soon be released to telemarketing companies.

Facts: Despite the urgent warnings you may have received through e-mail, this much-believed and much-acted-upon rumor is 100 percent false. Cellphone numbers are not and will not be released to telemarketers for their use, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the independent agency charged with protecting consumers. In fact, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations prohibit telemarketers—or anyone—from using automated dialers or any artificial or prerecorded voice message to call cellphone numbers. Companies could dial numbers manually to avoid illegal behavior, but “the large majority use automated dialers,” according to Rosemary Kimball, an FCC spokeswoman. “I haven’t heard of any exceptions.”

The famed National Do Not Call Registry accepts numbers from both landlines and cellphones. You may put either, or both, numbers on it by calling 1-888-382-1222 from the number you wish to register or sign up online at Both methods are free of charge. Once your number is registered, it’s permanent. Numbers on the list will not expire, nor is there a separate registry for cellphones.

So how do telemarketers know not to call you if you’re on the list? They pay a fee to get a copy of the registry. Companies can be fined if consumers report receiving calls after placing a number on the list. The system has been “very effective,” says FTC public affairs specialist Mitchell Katz. “There just haven’t been many violations.” The biggest violator, Direct TV, recently received the largest fine to date—$5.3 million.

Carol Kaufmann is a contributing editor at AARP Bulletin.


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