Fake 'do not call list' targets cell phone users
Published Wednesday, November 26, 2008 5:28PM EST
Cellular customers who've registered their numbers for a type of mobile-only "do not call" registry could soon discover they are the victims of credit card fraud and possibly even identity theft, a spokesperson from a major Canadian telecom company said.
The fraudulent emails claim that Telus recently announced all wireless numbers were scheduled for distribution to telemarketers by the end of the month.
Telus detected the emails Nov. 18, said Jim Johannsson, director of media relations for Telus.
"There is no basis in fact about the rumour," Johannsson told CTV.ca on Wednesday.
The sham letter warned mobile customers they would be charged for incoming telemarketing calls, but that they could stop the calls simply by registering over the phone at one of two numbers, or online.
"It will only take a minute of your time," wrote the fraudsters. It ends by saying "Help others by passing this on to all your friends."
The website and first number listed are actually valid and direct customers to Canada's National Do Not Call List.
The second number however, was flagged by Telus' security team as a known telemarketing scam coming out of the U.S., Johannsson said.
"It has been connected to folks who collect credit card information and sell phone lists to companies in the U.S."
The criminal operation may also be involved in identity theft, though that is still unconfirmed, Johannsson said.
"The fact is that it's not legitimate and that means it's dangerous. Customers should stay away," Johannsson said, adding dozens of similar emails are circulating at any given time.
On top of the dangers associated with contacting the imitation number, cell phone customers could very well incur charges simply for placing the call -- depending on their plan, Johannsson said.
Telus originally sent out a press release to media outlets in B.C. and Alberta, thinking the emails were contained to that area.
But thanks to email forwarding and the blogosphere, the fake notice has spread to countless Canadians.
"Thanks for the info I had no clue about this I am so calling that number," one Internet user posted on Yahoo! Answers in response to the fake advisory nearly two months ago.
Telus has polled wireless customers in the past to gauge whether they'd like their numbers distributed to telemarketers, Johannsson said. The majority of responses were "no."
"We totally respect that," he said.