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OSCEOLA -- Your best friend, sibling or even cousin's co-worker may have the best of intentions, but that e-mail they just sent about your cell phone number in danger of being unleashed to telemarketers unless you call a special number is probably bogus.
Indeed, the Northern Indiana Better Business Bureau is warning area residents that unwittingly giving out your cell phone number could be the first step to getting scammed. The information provided via the e-mail often lands in the hands of con artists who, turn in, call and try to get more valuable data like credit card or bank account numbers.
"You just need to be cautious," said Dreama Jensen, area director of the Northern Indiana BBB.
Phone numbers listed on the Federal Trade Commission's Do Not Call Registry are never purged unless the consumer requests the number be removed or unless the phone has been changed, disconnected or reconnected. The list never expires.
To register for the real Federal Trade Commission's Do Not Call Registry, call 888-382-1222 or visit www.ftc.gov/donotcall
Putting a number on the registry is free and can be done by individual consumers. Private companies claiming they will handle the registration, especially those that charge a fee, are almost certainly a scam, according to the FTC Web site.
The registry is sold to telemarketers, according to a spokesman for the FTC, but only so businesses know who they cannot call. Certain entities, such as political groups and charitable organizations, are allowed to contact those on the list. People who register and then are contacted by a telemarketer prohibited from calling can file a complaint with the FTC.
Being on the Do Not Call list will not prevent scammers from calling but consumers, knowing they are registered, may be more leery of solicitors and not as likely to get deceived.
The Indiana Attorney General has been receiving reports about robocalls from scammers posing as officials from a bank or credit union. These phishing calls and text messages tell consumers to "press one to reactivate your card," which is followed by an operator coming on the line and asking for account information, according to the Attorney General.
Ultimately these criminals are impossible to trace, said Molly Butters, spokeswoman for the Indiana Attorney General. Moreover, some financial institutions will not give a reimbursement if the customer gave out the account or credit card information voluntary.
Anyone of any age, income level and social bracket can be fooled into handing out personal information, Butters said.
"Nobody is safe," she said.
When getting a questionable call, the attorney general advises consumers to just hang up.
"Prevention is the key to this," Butters said.