The Power of an Urban Myth E-mail

1/14/2005

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Recently several e-mails concerning the proposed Wireless 411 service received wide distribution. One e-mail claimed that beginning January 2005 all cell phone numbers will be made public to telemarketing firms. It also stated that consumers’ cell phones would be inundated with calls from telemarketers. And, that these telemarketers will eat up your free minutes and could end up costing you money. The e-mail goes on to say that you had until December 15, 2004 to get your cell phone number on the National Do-Not-Call list. A person could call either 1.888.382.1222 from the cell phone they wish to have put on the list or that person can do it online at www.donotcall.gov.

Unlike many so called "urban myths," this e-mail actually contains several elements of truth woven through it; and perhaps because it does, it has gotten passed around with a speed that would have made the perpetrators of old-fashioned chain letters positively green with envy.

It is true that a consortium of wireless providers is planning to create a 411 (directory assistance) service for cell phone numbers. However, it is not true that you must register your cell phone with the national "Do Not Call" Registry before January 1, 2005 to prevent your number from being provided to telemarketers. Certain of the major wireless companies -- AllTel, Cingular (AT&T Wireless), Nextel, Sprint PCS, and T-Mobile -- have banded together to produce a Wireless 411 service. Their goal is to pool their listings to create a comprehensive directory of cell phone customer names and phone numbers that would be made available to directory assistance providers.

While many cell phone customers are opposed to the proposed Wireless 411 service, the wireless companies behind the proposed Wireless 411 service contend that their service will be beneficial to cellular customers and that they have addressed those customers' major concerns, the most important of which is that the Wireless 411 service would be strictly "opt-in" - that is, wireless customers will be included in the directory only if they specifically request to be added. The phone numbers of wireless customers who do nothing will not be included; those who choose to be listed can have their numbers removed from the directory if they change their minds; and, there is no charge for requesting to be included or choosing not to be included.

The industry will not publish numbers in a directory or sell the numbers to a third party. The Wireless 411 directory information is not supposed to be supplied to telemarketers. It is currently against federal law for telemarketers to use their “automated dialing system” to call wireless numbers without the customer’s permission. The best and most efficient way to eliminate telemarketers is to list a wireless number with the FTC’s Do-Not-Call registry. All wireless phones are eligible. There is currently no timetable for the Wireless 411 service introduction and determining when it will be operational is a decision to be made by each carrier.

For more information on this particular "urban myth," go to www.snopes.com/politics/business/cell411.asp. You can check out other "urban myths" as they hit your e-mail box at www.snopes.com.

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