Dear Lifehacker, I received an alarmist message about telemarketing with an urgent call to click the included link. What do you make of it?
Mobile phone numbers going public This is for Australian phone numbers REMEMBER: Mobile Phone Numbers Go Public next month. REMINDER: all mobile phone numbers are being released to telemarketing companies and you will start to receive sale calls. YOU WILL BE CHARGED FOR THESE CALLS Below is a link where you can enter your phone numbers online to put an end to telemarketing calls. Don't just delete those calls otherwise you will find that you have been signed up for all sorts of extra services that you didn't want or know about. Like special chimes, music etc.
Should I be panicking? What's the story?
Thanks, Hands Off
Dear Hands Off,
You're right to be suspicious: this message is total rubbish. It's an adaptation of an email which originally circulated in the US — something which is evident from the comment about being forced to pay for receiving calls from telemarketers. (US mobile phones charge the recipient, while in Australia those costs are always borne by the caller.) In the US, it was false, and that's doubly true for Australia.
In fact, it's not even a new false warning: ACMA issued a press release about it back in 2009, noting its US origins, its lack of truth and reaffirming that companies are not given direct access to listings of numbers on the Do Not Call register.
If you want to avoid telemarketing calls, then being on the Do Not Call register is certainly sensible. Note that won't necessarily block all calls: charities, political parties and market researchers are exempt, as are organisations which have an existing relationship with you. However, even those organisations have to respect the rules regarding when calls can be made: no calls before 9am or after 8pm on weekdays, before 9am or after 5pm on Saturdays, or at all on Sundays. If they do all within those hours, we also have a number of suggestions on how to get rid of them.
Finally, it's worth repeating: don't ever click on links in an email from an unknown source, or where the contents seem dubious. While this particular example did actually link to the Do Not Call site, it could just as easily have linked to a malware-ridden page or a phishing site which was trying to steal your details.
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