If the in-boxes of Consumer Reports' staffers are any indication, there's currently another uptick in e-mails warning that America’s cell-phone numbers are about to be posted in a national 411 directory for use by telemarketers. Unless you call 888-382-1212 888-382-1222 to register it on the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) Do Not Call List, the messages say, you'll soon receive a flood of telemarketer calls.
This is false. There is neither a deadline nor even such a directory, at least not yet. The e-mails even get the relevant agency wrong; the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulates cell phones, not the FTC.
It's actually illegal for telemarketers to call your cell phone, though your carrier or its partners have the legal right to text you with upgrade offers or account notices. (For tips on curbing unwanted text messages on your cell phone, see: "Cell-phone spam: How to curb it.") Also, non-commercial organizations such as charities and political campaigns can contact you all they want, on your landline or your cell.
You can register your cell-phone number with the FTC's Do Not Call Registry (https://www.donotcall.gov/), but the agency will as yet do little or nothing with it. The registry is for landline numbers. You used to have to re-register those with the FTC every five years. But now registrations remain in effect until you change your number, thanks to the Do-Not-Call Improvement Act of 2007 that became law in February 2008.
If telemarketers or others harass you on your home or cell phone, you can file a complaint with the FCC by filling out online form 1088. Make a note of the time, and any caller details (caller ID comes in handy in these situations).
[UPDATE March 31, 2009: We corrected an error in the toll-free number for the "Do Not Call" registry. —Ed.]