Bottom Line Personal tells us that automated opinion polls may want more than our opinion. Because phone surveys are exempt (why, please, Mr./Ms. Legislator?) from rules that ban robocalls and those numbers on the federal Do Not call Registry, lots of fraudsters and schemers hit their speed dials to reel us in. Lots of companies believe that beginning an automated sales call with a survey legitimizes the call. Not so.
Visit the Internet to discover how many companies have been either substantially fined or even shut down over this deception. Bottom Line uses Caribbean Cruise Line as an example. It recently agreed to pay half a million dollars to settle claims that it robo-called millions of numbers with what appeared to be a political survey.
Recipients were told that if they responded, they would receive a free two-day Bahamas cruise. Unfortunately, when the would-be cruisers tried to claim their reward, the salesperson tried to talk them into paying for some of the "free" cruise.
A couple of weeks ago, a similar scamster pulled up my number. By the time I got through listing federal names and addresses on my complaint contact list to which I planned to report his company, he was whimpering like a little lost puppy. (Normally, I would have followed my own advice to hang up immediately, but this scammer caught me at a bad time — for him.)
So what to do in the event of a robocall like this or any other type of robocall? First and foremost, never press a button on your keypad that supposedly removes you from the call list. It doesn't and, worse, probably increases the number of these nuisance calls you receive in the future.
If you receive a robocall trying to sell you something (and you haven't given the caller your written permission), it's an illegal call. Hang up. Then, file a complaint with the FTC and the National Do Not Call Registry. You can do that online at ftc.gov or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP. To learn more about illegal robocalls and what the FTC is doing to stop them, visit ftc.gov/robocalls. Additionally:
- Go online to DoNotCall.gov. This is insurance to see if your phone number is on the Do Not Call Registry. Unfortunately, as I've noted on more than one occasion, if you've donated to a charitable organization or political party in the past, you'll remain on the sucker (er, I mean respondent) list if you don't take steps. Be sure to tell this particular group of folks that if they continue to call, you will never again give them one red dime, and you'll report the caller.
- Nomoreobo.com is a goodie. It's a way to find out if free robocall-blocking is available for your phone carriers' cell and land lines. (Note: Nomorobo won the Federal Trade Commission's contest searching for the best methods to block robocalls.)
- Check out robocall-blocking apps. If you use a smartphone, one should be a available, depending upon the type of phone. Purchase a landline blocker from either a retailer or an electronics Internet shopping site.
Contact Ellen Phillips at consumerwatch@times freepress.com.