Your cell phone number is no longer unlisted

By Andrea Karim on 13 August 2007 (Updated 18 August 2007) 8 comments
Photo: Kevin

My cell phone is my only phone, which saves me quite a bit of money every month. Telemarketers don't have the number. Which is good, because I hate wasting airtime telling telemarketers what they can do to themselves.

Looks like I had better brush up on my insults.

According to the Seattle Times, a locally-owned company named Intelius is putting together a cell phone directory. It costs $15 to search for an individual's cell phone number. That's right - for $15, your cell number can be given out to anyone.

You might not have heard of Intelius before, but they are one of those companies that touts their services in background checks. You may have seen ads or received spam emails warning you to do a background check on your date? That's Intelius. They also purchased a small company that does a lot of background check work for employers.

Many states have laws that prohibit including cell phone numbers in a directory without the written consent of the account owner. In fact, prior efforts to put together a cell phone directory have been stymied by citizen's privacy groups.

So, how is Intelius getting their hands on these cell phone numbers to begin with?

Simple. They're buying that information from skeezy marketing companies with questionable tactics. Through careful data mining and third party purchases, Intelius is cobbling together what they hope with be a lucrative money-making directory. Think that entering a drawing for a prize at a local business is a bad idea? It is - your information is frequently gathered and sold to third party marketing firms.

Apparently, the database is still full of incorrect information, and no refunds are given if the information offered on the search is incorrect. That's a classy business model for you.

The Seattle Times reporter who covered the story has a blog post on what to do to prevent Intelius from listing your cell phone number.

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Guest's picture
Guest

Hi,
I haven't checked the Seattle Times link you referenced, but snopes.com has called this an urban myth for a while now. I'll check out the Seattle story too, but thought you'd want to know...

Guest's picture
Guest

Well, I'd say having an interview with a company rep who confirms the story (like it says in the Times) would probably indicate that this is legit.

Guest's picture
Jon

Don't know if the list applies to cell phones. But I put my cell phone number on the do not call list. It is my primary phone and I use it for everything, so it is definitely out there to be sold to marketers. I've never gotten any telemarketing calls on it.
I think a list like this will only do so much good. Some people change numbers all the time. Of course with the ability to take your number to a different carrier, it may gain in value.

Guest's picture
Guest

Why waste your breath insulting someone who's just doing their job, when you can quickly and politely request that they remove you from their call list? They're legally required to do so. Or do you enjoy abusing people?

Guest's picture
Guest

To the above comment: Oh please. From my experience removing someone from your call list doesn't stop the sales calls. I've once had to ask five times for a magazine company to stop calling to offer their free mag. Sorry, if this offends you and if you are a fair person, but some places just aren't so honest. These lists can be sold to countless companies, which add up to who knows how many calls. Seriously, there are better ways of advertising and I think the majority of people who receive cold calls can agree that they are annoying and invasive.

Andrea Karim's picture

Very subtle, #4. Keep up the great work.

It is true that adding your cell phone to the Do Not Call list is a good idea. I've had pretty good luck with the Do Not Call list for other landlines that I used to use. I certainly intend to do the same for my cell. I'm not sure if asking Intelius to remove a number is effective or not, as I have yet to try it.

Judging by the current database (at least, according to the reporter) chances are that many of the listings will be incorrect, anyway. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing, but it's something to keep in mind: you might start getting telemarketing calls that are meant for another individual.

As to whether or not I enjoy abusing people: well, duh. Who doesn't? But I especially love abusing companies who consider it their "job" to locate and sell my personal contact information without my knowledge or consent.

They, frankly, deserve it.

Guest's picture
Harry

Also, I read that whenever you call a 800 number, your number is recorded and somehow gets to the Intelius database, maybe via some other company. I really don't know it. Does anybody have more precise information about it?

Guest's picture
Jen

Considering they clearly do have a reverse lookup service:
http://www.intelius.com/people-search-phone.html
and claim that income information and other details on my phone number are available... I have to assume this is _not_ an urban legend, even though Snopes says they shut it down.