Thursday, May 24, 2007

Block Cell Phone Numbers - eMail going around

Submitted as a public service:

I keep getting emails, just like everyone else, that warn people to do this, that, or the other hokus-pokus activity (call this number, visit this link, register for this service!) to avoid that or this disaster.

They're not the usual spam, in that they are more likely to be sent from people you know, and typically will include about three pages of forwarded email addresses showing the power of the internet to play party games like Operator, except you don't have to repeat what you thought you heard, but you get to keep the original text (but, sadly, frequently not the pictures) of the original email, if you are only patient enough to weed through email addresses as anti-virus reports.

Usually, I get these emails from my mother, the mother of a friend or a client-turned-friend from a past job.

They are typically emails with "little-known facts" trivia content, or maybe political rants using half-truths and distorted rumors that purport to show some conspiracy of some sort. But frequently the emails are about scams, computer software gotchas that will leave you with vulnerable security, things like that. Usually, I'll just do a quick search on the Internet and reply to my mother or whoever sent the email (sincerely worried that not spreading the news will leave people vulnerable) that they need not be concerned, here's a link to help you understand more.

Now, when I get these emails, it's usually with a note saying something like "I don't know if this is true or not" or maybe I'll get a forward specifically to me alone asking if it's true and should they send it on to their friends....

I thought I would share this latest one and reconstruct the email history in normal reading order. To those who might now know of these useful tricks, I hope this is helpful to you. To those who know of alternative approaches, please fell free to post your criticism and comments!

The original email

REMINDER...12 days from today, all cell phone numbers are being released to telemarketing companies and you will start to receive sale
s calls.


To prevent this, call the following number from your cell phone:

It is the National DO NOT CALL list. It will only take a minute of your time.
It blocks your number for five (5) years.
You must call from the cell phone number you want to have blocked.
You cannot call from a different phone number.

It take about 20 seconds.

The forwarded email I got

Hi folks,

I assume this is accurate. If anyone know or finds out it isn't, please let me know. Have a nice day!


My response

Matter of fact, I got this email a few weeks ago from my mother. It is a scam, though a fairly bizarre one, in that the end result is to get your number on the do-not-call list, so that's okay.

One way I go about checking the validity of some of these emailed claims is to assume that if it is a con or a myth, probably other people have already come across it. So I will take some distinctive text from the email and search for it on Google, maybe adding "truth" or "scam" or "myth" to the search terms.

Usually one of the top links that pops up will be to a government (.gov) web site, or one of the sites devoted to urban myths ( is one great example, though there are others). If the page is indeed on one of these sites, then I am pretty confident I can rely on that information, and often I will find that the email they display is pretty much identical to the one I received, and I can get the facts on it.

In this case, to do it from scratch, I searched for "all cell phone numbers are being released to telemarketing companies" and found a Yahoo link that said "Yahoo! Answers - Cell phone Do Not Call list (is it for real)?". Now that's not a reliable source, but sometimes people put links to .gov or other sites in their answers. Detective work.

So I looked at the page, and I was right. They guy said it was false, and provided a link to .

And at the bottom of that page, I hit pay-dirt:

This is a .gov site, and it talks about this email specifically. In it, they specifically mention the following:

  • FCC regulations prohibit telemarketers from using automated dialers to call cell phone numbers. Automated dialers are standard in the industry, so most telemarketers are barred from calling consumers on their cell phones without their consent.

  • The federal government does not maintain a national cell phone registry. Personal cell phone users have always been able to add their numbers to the National Do Not Call Registry — the same Registry consumers use to register their land lines — either online at or by calling toll-free 1-888-382-1222 from the telephone number they wish to register. Registrations become effective within 31 days of signing up and are active for five years. There is no cut-off date or deadline for registrations.

  • Business-to-business calls are not covered under the Registry.
So, feel safe. Go ahead and add your number. But don't worry about any release of numbers.

If this is useful to you, feel free to pass it on.



MJ Reynolds said...

Thanks for taking the time to sort it out... I don't know why the same people who forward to everyone in their email address book don't take the time to do a simple Google search to check it out FIRST.

MJ Reynolds, site editor at

VSmirk said...

I'm very proud of my non-techie friends,though. Two of the regular senders of these types of emails have since begun sending out emails after they do such research, mostly through Scopes, not Google.

That's a great place to begin, for the most part, though I doubt the folks at Scopes realize their Urban Myth themed site has suddenly become a source of veracity for Spam and other hoaxes.