Consumer Watch: Avoid unwanted calls from telemarkers

Consumer Watch: Avoid unwanted calls from telemarkers

June 15th, 2014 by Ellen Phillips in Business Diary

Ellen Phillips

Photo by Contributed Photo/Times Free Press.

It used to be that dinner time was THE time telemarketers dialed your number to sell products, request votes, solicit money, announce you've "won" contests, and all else on the "Leave Me the Heck Alone" list (as opposed to the "Do Not Call). The latter registry was supposed to solve our problems and allow us to eat meals in peace, especially once the government began slapping big fines on these unwanted telemarketers. (Of course, the preyed upon - us - must turn in the preyed against - them - before those fines start hurting companies who make the calls.) Then the idiots got smart and along come the robocalls, which don't allow us to ask to speak to a live person to demand our name be removed from this list. Unfortunately, along with robocalls, additional unwanted calls are sneaking through more and more until the ringer gets on our last nerve; we're now phoned by overseas marketers and, worse, legal entities like pollsters, politicians, companies with which you already have a business relationship, and charities are restricted from the Do Not Call Registry so they can bother us Ad Nauseum. What to do, what to do?

1 Register all your phone numbers - landline and cell - with the Registry. Even if it doesn't work like we wish it would, it still reduces the amount of calls.

2 Sign up for Nomorobo. While answer is contingent on the eligibility of your telecom provider, this free service recently won the Federal Trade Commission's top prize to technologically reduce robocalls. Incoming calls aren't just routed to your own phone but also to Nomorerobo's computers, which can determine if the caller is an automatic dealer and, if so, hangs up on the caller after the very first ring. Even though all traditional providers don't yet offer Nomorerobo, enough do to make it worth your while to check, as I luckily discovered for myself. Go to Nomorobo.com, click "Get Started Now," and you'll see if the service is available for you.

3 Ask legit companies to place you on their do-not-call list. Ethical groups usually comply with your request, even those pollsters, politicians, and charities that legally can give you a call. But if they continue to call, inform the person on the other end that the very next time the organization calls, not only will you never buy, vote, donate or whatever, you'll also turn them over to the FTC and FCC (Federal Communications Commission) for one or more of those $16,000 fines per incident! (The group does have 31 days to remove your name and number(s) from their list.) Along this same line, just like with collection agencies, it's illegal for these solicitations to take place before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. Just be certain NOT to push anything on the keypad to opt out if instructed to do by a prerecorded message; you'll let the caller know it's a legitimate phone number which may lead to more frequent calls.

(To be continued next week...)

Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. Her Consumer Watch column appears every Sunday. Email her at consumerwatch@timesfreepress.com.