Claims of potentially fatal phone calls have been circulating via email and internet rumor since 2007, and they persist despite the lack of hard evidence about where these supposed deaths occurred. Adding to the fear-mongering are the area codes these phone calls supposedly originate from, which correspond to Middle Eastern countries (most notably Iran and Afghanistan).
One such example read:
I don’t know how true this is but just take precaution. Please don’t attend to any calls from the following numbers:
* 7888308001 *
* 9316048121 *
* 9876266211 *
* 9888854137 *
* 9876715587 *
These numbers come in red colors. U may get brain hemorrhage due to high frequency. 27 persons died just receiving the calls watch the DD news to confirm. Please inform all your relatives and friends soon it's urgent.
Another example the Snopes newsroom came across stated:
Its very important news for all of you. Do not pick up calls Under given numbers.
9888308001 , 9316048121 91+, 9876266211, 9888854137, 9876715587
These numbers will come in red color, if the calls comes up from these numbers. Its with very high wave length, and frequency. If a call is received on mobile from these numbers, it creates a very high frequency and it causes brain ham range.
It's not a joke rather, its TRUE. 27 persons died just on receiving calls from these numbers. Watch Aaj Tak (NEWS), DD News and IBN 7.
Forward this message to all u'r friends and colleagues, and relatives
While it might seem that this canard combines an assumed fear of people of Middle Eastern descent with rumors that cell phones can somehow cause tissue damage, the fiction's origins are actually in the Middle East itself. In fact, this warning appears to have started in Pakistan in 2007, spreading first to Afghanistan and then to other countries.
It is simply not possible for cell phones to transmit at frequencies that would cause immediate fatalities. This legend depends on a misunderstanding of how frequency waves and resonance work. Sound waves and vibrations can be destructive (consider sound waves breaking glass or the destruction of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge), but circumstances have to be very precise for this to happen. (The University of Salford explains how to replicate the glass shattering effect with sound waves). One key element is volume: without enough volume, sound waves simply do not vibrate glass hard enough to cause destruction. Since cell phones have a limited volume range, this affects their ability to cause damage to the brain. Cell phone frequencies range from 698 to 2155 MhZ, not even enough to pop popcorn.
There is still no solid evidence cell phones can even produce wavelengths that cause damage to the human body, most notably in the form of cancer-causing radiation. The National Cancer Institute's web page on cell phones states that "Research studies have not shown a consistent link between cell phone use and cancer. A large international study (Interphone) published in 2010 found that, overall, cell phone users have no increased risk for two of the most common types of brain tumor."
The final bit of this legend that is questionable is the "red number" display. With the exception of user customization on some smart phones, incoming calls are always displayed in black — callers cannot change settings on someone else's phone simply by dialing their number.
Despite the complete implausibility, these rumors continue to circulate, seen more recently in Kenya in late 2010. Part of this persistence was fueled by a June 2004 hoax letter, purportedly from a Nokia executive to his staff, claiming that the rumors are true and that "energy surges into [the user's] body, resulting in both coronary heart failure and brain hemorrhage."
In 2005, Nokia issued a statement refuting the contents of the letter. A spokesman for Nokia said: "Like many other claims circulating on the internet, this is a hoax."
"The letter has absolutely nothing to do with Nokia. We regret any inconvenience caused to our customers by this work of fiction."
The bogus letter also claims all other mobile phone manufacturers are affected by the same problem. It says it is an inherent fault in the system design and cannot be resolved.
Addressed To All Staff and stamped 'confidential', the letter has been made to look like it has been leaked from within the company — but the word haemorrhaging is spelt incorrectly.
The final paragraph warns staff if they speak to anyone about the letter they will be sacked.
- Asia Pulse. "LG Electronics, Sony Look Into S. Korean Cell Phone Explosion."
- 2 February 2004.