The Checkout

An Urban Myth That Will Not Die

It is the e-mail that will never die. About every two months, I get a panicked e-mail from a friend telling me that cell phone numbers are about to be released to telemarketers. Soon my cell will start ringing off the hook with unwanted solicitations on my mobile phone--and my precious limited cell phone minutes will be eaten up!

The letters started reappearing in my e-mail box again recently--even though telemarketing to cell phones is prohibited by law. So let me reiterate, this is an urban myth. If you're concerned, you can always register your cell-phone number on the government's do-not-call list (go online to register or call 888-382-1222.) But you don't need to.

In other cell phone news today:
* House Lawmaker to Introduce Legislation to Protect Cell Phone Data

* FCC Probes Selling of Cell Phone Data

By  |  January 19, 2006; 2:30 PM ET Consumer Tips
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Comments

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If this is an Urban Myth, why do I get a large volume of telemarketing calls to my cell phone? This is even though I have listed the number with the do not call registry.

The fact that something is against the law, shouldn't lead to the conclusion that it doesn't happen.

Posted by: Josh | January 19, 2006 9:17 AM

Some might call the "Do Not Call" list an urban myth. It was created by Congress which means that, as usual, there are large loopholes.

If you use your cellphone for business then it's not covered.

Of course, calls from or on behalf of POLITICAL organizations are allowed.

Calls from charities and telephone surveyors are allowed.

Calls are permitted from companies with which you have an existing business relationship. My credit card company calls all the time, as does my mortgage company.

Or any company that you've authorized in writing is permitted to call. Make sure when you sign an agreement that it didn't include an opt-out statement that you needed to check to not receive calls.

Posted by: Kevin | January 19, 2006 9:37 AM

If you drill down to the FTC web site, you'll find that, although computer-dialed telemarketing calls to cell phones are illegal, manually-dialed calls are not. So it doesn't hurt to register your cell phone to do-not-call, and it might save you from a few annoyances.

Posted by: James Quinn | January 19, 2006 9:47 AM

Considering that websites are selling anybody's list of cell phone calls to anybody with $110, or $90, depending on who the seller is, junk telemarketing calls seems like a remarkably frivolous thing to worry about. The Post wrote about this some time back, the Chicago Sun-Times has written several stories in the last couple of weeks and Americablog.org has been hitting this story hard -- it bought Gen. Wesley Clark's cell phone records, no questions asked.

Posted by: SalHepatica | January 19, 2006 9:52 AM

Read the article before commenting. She didn't say telemarketing calls to cell phones are a urban legend, she said the fact that cell numbers were about to be released en masse to the telemarketers is the urban legend.

Posted by: carleric | January 19, 2006 10:40 AM

Thanks for the item. But please note that the proper term is "urban *legend*", not "urban myth." The term was coined by the first and most thorough scholarly chronicle of these stories, Professor Jan Harold Brunvand, who has written a number of books chronicling them. As Professor Brunvand notes, the term "myth" is better use in the senes of "mythology," while "legend" more properly describes a stroy which is widely believe to be *literally* true, but is not.

Posted by: Gee | January 19, 2006 12:01 PM

I recently started receiving several calls informing that I had "won" a government grant for $XXXX and all I had to do is send them $XXXX to "release" my funds. I have also received several calls offering to sell me a credit card. I have no business relationships with any of these individuals. So, they got the number from somewhere.

Posted by: Eric | January 19, 2006 12:18 PM


I too have received the email regarding the cell phone telemarketing calls. I did ignore the information feeling comfortable that "it is against the law". However, I have recently starting receiving such calls. Usually pre-recorded. Looks like the e-mail Urban Myth/Legend is now a reality.

Posted by: Roseanne | January 19, 2006 12:29 PM

Your provider may not be selling your cell phone number, however I have received three cell phone calls in the past month to sell me a mortgage. My husband and I recently bought furniture and I listed my cell number as the most convenient way for the salesperson to contact me. Think that list wasn't sold?

Posted by: Dawn | January 19, 2006 1:26 PM

With number portability, how are telemarketers supposed to know that my number that was a landline last month, is a cell number this month?

Posted by: Bob | January 19, 2006 3:36 PM

Given the ease with which cell phone records of individuals can be purchased via the Web, the whole "do not call" list issue is becoming transformed.

Or is the "purchase cell phone records on the web" issue an urban myth as well?

Posted by: DM | January 19, 2006 3:43 PM

If you use a little "common sense" (which doesn't seem to be too common these days) you can avoid these unwanted calls to your mobile phone.
1-Don't list your mobile phone as a contact method, especially if you're signing up for something on the web. Your information will get distributed and you will get calls on your cell phone. Think of it as Spam for your mobile phone.
2-Use your caller ID. All mobile phones made in the last 8+ years are digital and should have caller ID (at no charge I might add). If you don't recognize the number, or if the number is blocked, don't answer the call. If they leave lots of voice mails then.....
3-Use a landline phone to check your voice mail. All of the major carriers allow you to access your voice mail from a land line phone without depleting the minutes from your plan. Get in the habit of doing this so that you don't waste your minutes on useless voicemails that you may be recieving.

By the way, if someone is getting your cell phone information from a website, complain to your carrier. None of the wireless carriers participate in or condone this information being released. The web sites that are providing this information are doing so illegally. If you don't complain to your carrier about it, they won't know that it's going on and can't do anything to stop it. Verizon Wireless has recently shut down several companies that were accessing and selling their customers' information. They did this after they were alerted to the issue by customers. You have to be proactive in protecting yourself. Don't assume that someone else is looking out for your best interests.

Posted by: Kevin | January 22, 2006 6:37 PM

I may be incorrect, but I've heard that some of the telemarketing calls use automatic dialers that call one number after another in numerical order until they get someone. In that case, I don't see how it could differentiate between a landline and cell.

Posted by: JustOneMore | January 23, 2006 1:25 PM

Here's my simple solution. I don't answer my cell if the number calling is blocked. And if I don't know the number, I don't answer. And if it gets bad enough, I'll get a new number.

Posted by: David | January 26, 2006 6:42 PM

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