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CELL-PHONE TELEMARKETING RUMOR HOOKS AMERICANS.

Byline: Candice Choi Staff Writer

There's nothing like the specter of telemarketers to stir up an urban legend; this time, it's that the pesky callers will soon start haunting people on their cell phones.

Rumors of a Dec. 15 deadline to block telemarketers have reached such a fever pitch that government and industry officials stepped forward Friday to extinguish the fears.

``There is no deadline to sign up,'' said Jen Schwartzman, spokeswoman for the Federal Trade Commission. People are free to sign up for the registry whenever they like, she said, and that's been the case since it was first rolled out in June 2003.

In fact, cell-phone numbers have always been accepted on the registry. It is also illegal for telemarketers to dial up cell-phone numbers.

The urban legend is being fanned by - surprise - an e-mail forward stating people must sign up their cell-phone numbers on the Do Not Call registry by Dec. 15.

Schwartzman said it's likely the introduction of a new wireless directory is behind the now out-of-control rumor.

``It's one of those things when a couple of true facts spiral out of control and all of a sudden people think there's a deadline and a separate registry for cell phones,'' she said.

The Wireless 411 Service that is set to be released in 2005, unlike the traditional land-line directory assistance, has strict privacy policies, according to a statement released by Qsent, the Oregon company responsible for compiling it. Surprisingly, the rumors are causing such a stir they're actually raising awareness about the service.

``It's actually helped,'' said Jeff Fishburn, Qsent spokesman. ``It's gotten the (Federal Communications Commission) and the FTC to step up and start talking about the facts.''

Consumers must ask to be included in the directory and can ask to be de-listed at any time free of charge, the release states.

Telemarketers will not have access to the data, and no physical listing of cell-phone numbers will become available. The directory service is being commissioned by six wireless-carrier services and the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association.

``It's the last piece of the puzzle for wireless users,'' Fishburn said. ``This is about making wireless a viable alternative for people who use it for their primary phone line.''

A survey by the Pierz Group found that cell phones are the primary communication device for 24 percent of people, with 8 percent of single-person households and 6 percent of all households saying cell phones are their only phone.

The report found that 53 percent of consumers support the Wireless 411 Service with the privacy protections.

The wireless directory is not associated with the Do Not Call registry.

There are currently 69 million phone numbers listed on the Do Not Call registry. About 10 million people signed up in the first two days when it was rolled out in June 2003, and about 150,000 numbers a week have been added since then. Ever since the urban legend began circulating, Schwartzman said, she's seen a sharp spike in new numbers being listed.

The Federal Communications Commission bans telemarketers from calling mobile phones. Telemarketers can be fined $11,000 for every call they make to a number listed on the Do Not Call registry, Schwartzman said.

Candice Choi, (818) 713-3634

candice.choi(at)dailynews.com

INFO TO GO

www.donotcall.gov

(888) 382-1222

www.wireless411service.com

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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Dec 11, 2004
Words:566
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