Are Cell Phone Numbers 'Going Public'?

Do you really need to add your mobile number to the Do Not Call List?

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Since 2004, viral messages have warned that a directory of cell phone numbers will soon be published and that consumers should dial 888-382-1222 to list mobile numbers with the National Do Not Call Registry to prevent themselves from receiving telemarketing calls. In fact, no such list of cell phone numbers has ever been published—and there are no plans for such a list to "go public."

Viral Rumors

A viral email, dated December 9, 2004, warned readers that their cell phone numbers would soon "be made public to telemarketing firms" and encouraged them to avoid nuisance calls by adding their numbers to the Do Not Call Registry:

"Subject: Fwd: Cell phone telemarketing

Thought you guys could use this information!!

PASS IT ON!!!

Starting Jan 1, 2005, all cell phone numbers will be made public to telemarketing firms. So this means as of Jan 1, your cell phone may start ringing off the hook with telemarketers, but unlike your home phone, most of you pay for your incoming calls. These telemarketers will eat up your free minutes and end up costing you money in the long run.

According to the National Do Not Call List, you have until Dec. 15th 2004 to get on the national "Do not call list" for cell phones. They said that you need to call 1-888-382-1222 from the cell phone that you wish to have put on the "do not call list" to be put on the list. They also said you can do it online at www.donotcall.gov

Registering only takes a minute, is in effect for 5 years and will possibly save you money (definitely frustration)! Make sure you register now!"

Analysis

This online rumor has been circulating continuously since 2004. Despite a very small grain of truth at its core, it's mostly false, outdated, and misleading.

Here's what you need to know:

  • Yes, you can add your cell phone number(s) to the National Do Not Call Registry.​
  • No, you won't suddenly be at the mercy of 10,000 telemarketers if you don't.
  • Contrary to what's claimed, cell phone numbers are not about to "go public."

It's true that a little over a decade ago some of the major wireless providers announced a plan to establish a universal cell phone directory, but the plan did ​not consist of simply publishing everyone's cell phone numbers for the world to see, nor were the numbers to be "released to telemarketers" as claimed above. The directory was to be made available only via telephone, only to those who dialed directory assistance and paid a fee, and only with individual wireless customers' consent.

The point has been moot since 2006 when the plan to create a wireless telephone directory was permanently shelved. As of September 2018, no similar proposals are in the works.

Do Not Call Registry

The Federal Trade Commission does allow mobile phone users to add their numbers to the National Do Not Call Registry (the same one already in force for home phones), by either registering online or calling 1-888-382-1222. It may not be necessary—per FCC regulations, telemarketers are already prohibited from using automatic dialers to call up mobile phones—but millions have signed up to ensure they're protected from unwanted calls, and so can you.

Contrary to what is stated in most variants of the rumor, there is no 31-day, 16-day, or 8-day deadline for adding cell phone numbers to the Do Not Call list. Indeed, there is no deadline at all.

More information about the Do Not Call Registry is available from the Federal Trade Commission.