Q: I'm so tired of getting phone calls at all hours from telemarketers, and do not get me even started on all the junk mail and email I get daily! Does the BBB know of a way to stop telemarketers from contacting me?
A: There are a few things more annoying than junk mail, spam and unsolicited calls and texts messages. Not only are these unwanted communications an annoyance, but they can potentially lead to identity theft.
But how do you stop them? While it's nearly impossible to completely eliminate junk mail, spam text messages and unwanted phone calls, BBB recommends taking the following steps for getting your inboxes and phone lines under control.
1) Unwanted mail should not cost you your identity. Pre-approved credit card offers are an easy target for identity thieves who can steal incoming mail and use these offers to open fraudulent credit accounts. Stopping these pre-screened credit offers can help reduce the chances of identity theft. U.S. consumers can "opt-out" of receiving pre-approved credit card offers for at least five years by calling 888-5-OPTOUT (567-8688) or visit: optoutprescreen.com. This service is offered by the three major credit reporting bureaus, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
2) Stop unwanted direct mail solicitations. To stop most mailings, U.S. consumers can go to dmachoice.org and opt out of mail from members of the Direct Marketing Association. DMA regularly updates its list, but it may take up to six months before solicitations from all DMA members stop.
3) Has your evening been interrupted by telemarketers? You're not alone. The U.S. government's National Do Not Call Registry is a free, easy way to reduce the telemarketing calls you get at home. To register your phone number or to get information about the registry, visit donotcall.gov, or call 888-382-1222 from the phone number you want to register. You will get fewer telemarketing calls within 31 days of registering your number. Tennessee also has a state Do Not Call Registry that would be a good idea to sign up with as well. The number to call is 877-TRA-7030 from your phone, and for more information visit: www.tn.gov/tra/donotcall/nocall.shtml. If you are in Georgia, once you have signed up for the National Do Not Call Registry it also registers you for the state version as well. Also note, these registries should work with cell phones in addition to your home lines.
4) Are you receiving spam text messages? First and foremost, don't respond. Responding to the text message only confirms a working number and opens the door for more messages. If your number is already on the Do Not Call Registry and you're still receiving messages and phone calls, file a complaint with the FCC at www.fcc.gov/complaints, and consider PrivacyStar. BBB National Partners AT&T and Verizon have partnered with PrivacyStar to give you back control of your smartphone. The smartphone application, available in the U.S. for Android, BlackBerry and iPhone, lets you block unwanted numbers, look up unknown numbers, and file a complaint with the FTC. For more information on PrivacyStar visit: www.privacystar.com/app-features.
Get answers to your questions each Friday from Jim Winsett, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau Inc., which serves Southeast Tennessee and Northwest Georgia. Submit questions to his attention by writing to Business Editor Dave Flessner, Chattanooga Times Free Press, P.O. Box 1447, Chattanooga, TN, 37401-1447, or by e-mailing him at dflessner@ timesfreepress.com.