Ask LH: Is My Mobile Number About To Be Given To Telemarketers?

Ask LH: Is My Mobile Number About To Be Given To Telemarketers?

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.
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.


Lifehacker 101 is a weekly feature covering fundamental techniques that Lifehacker constantly refers to, explaining them step-by-step. Hey, we were all newbies once, right?


  • A vaguely-related fact worth noting is that adding your number to the Do Not Call register only works for 5 years, whereupon you have to re-register.

    The website opened may 2007, so we’re under a year away from the first batch expiring.

    • My theory is that since the US adopted mobile phones so early on, that it was reasonable to get people to pay for the new service by paying to receive calls (they also pay to send them!)

      And now, it’s just the way it’s done, and it makes the company money so they probably won’t change it.

      It’s just the way things work there, and most people probably don’t realise it can be different.

      • Yes but…
        US mobile phone numbers are indistinguishable from land line numbers (as opposed to our 04… system).

        That means the caller doesn’t know they are calling a mobile, so it would be unfair to charge them for the “air time” used. So the recipient pays for the privilege.

        I think it’s fair an sensible system, just different to ours. So often what’s different seems “wrong” till you understand it.


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