3/7/2012 2:50 PM ET|
Stop those zombie telemarketers
If you have digital phone service, the kind provided over broadband Internet, you likely can manage your list of blocked calls online. If you have traditional land-line service, call and ask your carrier how to block calls. It's often as easy as pushing "*60#," entering the number and pushing "#" again. Another option is to get a Google Voice number, which allows blocking and maintains a by-subscription list of spam callers that don't get through.
Simply screening calls, and not answering, doesn't get you off any telemarketing lists. Of course, picking up might not help either, since it might be one of the robo-calls that just goes to dead air if there isn't a telemarketer available to get on the line with you. But you have to take action if you want to reduce the volume of calls you get.
For example, we were being pelted with calls from Hilton Grand Vacations. I'm a member of Hilton's frequent-guest club, so I surmise that its time share outlet was using the "established business relationship" exception to the do-not-call list's prohibition on telemarketing calls. (Charities, political organizations and pollsters are allowed to ignore the registry -- but not your subsequent requests to be put on the individual organization's internal do-not-call list.) A single call to Hilton Grand Vacation's toll-free number put a stop to the intrusions.
On the other hand, we were receiving multiple calls a week from a Wisconsin number that either disconnected or left a garbled recorded message about helping us stop a "pending foreclosure" (we're in no danger of losing our home, thank you very much). A quick Internet search found lots of other people were getting similar calls, even though they weren't in financial trouble. The obviously sketchy nature of this outfit meant I didn't want to have any more contact than necessary with the sleazeballs behind it, so the number was added to our "blocked" list and reported to the FTC.
Something similar happened when I answered a call from a local number and was told by the caller that I was being offered a great deal by a general contractor "because you've worked with us in the past." We've never worked with a general contractor, and I certainly wouldn't work with one that lied about an existing business relationship. I told the caller to put us on the company's do-not-call list and reported the number to the FTC (here's how to make a complaint).
The FTC doesn't follow up on these individual complaints, by the way. But it can use a pattern of complaints to take action, and I believe in giving regulators all the ammunition they need. It takes only a few seconds to make a complaint, so I do so - - early and often.
Caller blocking isn't a perfect solution, either. Determined bad guys can spoof their way around a block, and your carrier may limit how many numbers you can ignore. But it's made a real difference in how often the phone rings around here.
Other actions that help:
- Stop entering contests. The purpose of contests, sweepstakes and giveaways is typically to collect information about you that can be used by or sold to marketers.
- Opt out. Stop ignoring those annual privacy notices you get from financial-services companies. Respond and tell them not to sell or share your information with anyone else. Sign up for the credit bureaus' do-not-market list at OptOutPrescreen.com.
- Get stingy. Just because a business asks for your phone number doesn't mean that you have to give it out. If it's an online merchant that may need to contact me about an order, I give it my cell number. If it's a grocery store or other loyalty card provider, they get a number that's been disconnected for a decade. (Why would my grocer need to call me? To tell me those apples may not be as fresh as they look?) You'll find out how many others do this if you're ever without a loyalty card in the checkout lane -- just use a random area code and the number 867-5309. If you weren't around in 1982, ask an elder to sing Jenny's number for you (or listen to it here).
- Be brief. As I mentioned earlier, ignoring calls won't stop them from coming. But in taking action, you shouldn't give a telemarketer the opportunity to browbeat you or waste any more of your time. Telemarketers are supposed to tell you, right off the bat, what company or entity they represent. If they don't within the first few seconds, interrupt them with "Who is calling, please?" Follow up with "Put me on your do-not-call list." Then hang up. There's no need for further niceties. Make a note of the business or charity name, the number and the date of your request so you can report violations to the FTC.
- Don't reward them. Organizations use telemarketing because it's a relatively cheap and fast way to harass a lot of people at once. Giving telemarketers information, or worse yet, money, only encourages them to keep it up. With the leukemia society, I took it a step further. I sent an email saying that if I ever got another telemarketing call from that charity, I'd never contribute again. The society promised to remove me from its fundraising calling list. And so far, they haven't called back.
Liz Weston is the Web's most-read personal-finance writer. She is the author of several books, most recently "The 10 Commandments of Money: Survive and Thrive in the New Economy" (find it on Bing). Weston's award-winning columns appear every Monday and Thursday, exclusively on MSN Money. Join the conversation and send in your financial questions on Liz Weston's Facebook fan page.
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I've gone several rounds with Telemarketers. I am a marketing director for a Land Development Firm, as well as an Internet Marketing Consultant, so I'm familliar with policy and procedure.
Firstly, asking them to put you on their "do-not-call" list semdom works, as you will always get the excuse that they must not have updated their system yet. Also reporting the telephone number is useless as well. It's very very easy for companies like this to have several numbers, and to change them often.
BEST THING TO DO: Act interested in whatever product or service they are selling. I know it's a waste of your time, but it's also a waste of theirs, plus they get excited by the positive feedback, and think they're going to make a sale. Next casually ask them if they have a website (THAT'S THE MOST IMPORTANT THING). As i mentioned earlier, it's very easy for them to change telephone numbers, but to throw away all their online marketing efforts and traffic they generate is not easy for a comany to decide to do. So in short, they are basically married to their website. While on the phone with them, go to their website, and find contact info, and any other information that you can use to report, and identify them.
Once you get that information the rest is easy. Go to the FCC, and the FTC websites and file a complaint. Then go to your States Attorney Generals office and file a complaint with them as well. The AG's office is more likely to do something than the FCC, and FTC, however reporting to those agencies does help.
So in summary... GET THEIR WEB ADDRESS!!! it's not as easy to change, and it's a sure fire way to lock-down exactly who is bothering you. Keep records of the numbers and the calls, as you will need this info when you file your complaints.
I hope this helps.. good luck, and soon you can look forward to a quiet evening/dinner with your loved ones.
I don't have too much trouble with unwanted phone calls, but do have a LOT of trouble with unwanted cell phone texts. I don't have an unlimited text plan and have to pay for each one I receive. How can I block unwanted text messages??
I Googled their phone number and found out who their phone provider was. I called their phone provider and told them the calls are now being considered harassment since we've told them many times to stop. I told them if we received any more calls from this company we were going to file a police report against the telemarketing company AND the phone provider. It worked quite well.
I once had a call from a live telemarketer. I told him I was on the "Do Not Call" list, & his response was "So?" From then on I let my answering machine screen calls. It doesn't show a caller's number, but anyone who wants to speak to me has to wait for the greeting to end & the beep to sound. I still think that companies should stick to ads in newspapers, on the radio, or on TV, & stay off our phones & out of our mailboxes. I have no time to read billboards (the original "texting") while I'm trying to drive either.
All those donkeys are always preying on the American good will and generosity...
when 80 percent of the funds gathered go to pay for overhead costs, and the rest to help the needy, something is really wrong. I feel tempted to give a little to the poor person on the street only than to any long-fanged, rip-off strategy master calling from who knows where..
A few things I have noted in telemarketing type calls that we have been receiving for the past year or so. First is that 40-50% of them now show up as 000-000-0000 on the caller Id, or 800 type number start with a unknown caller tag. Back tracing the numbers by the internet phone number searches leads to no information unless I am willing to pay 20-30 dollar a number. Also get numbers that are listed as unknown caller with unknown number.
Second I get quite a few calls that are set up such as..... Please hold fro the next avabilie operator/ agent .......... there is no one to talk to on these I just hang up.
Next there is the sales calls that maserade as calls from charities, or other groups that are not covered by the dnc list.
I started to enroll in the 'Opt-Out' program but when I saw that they wanted my social security number, in addition to my name, address, and telephone number, I thought better of it.
"What's this?" I thought, "Doesn't a credit bureau ALREADY have my social security number?"
Certainly name, address, and telephone number should have been enough to identify me.
Why doesn't the 'Do Not Call' list prevent nuisance calls? Yet another reason to vote all our incumbent Congress people OUT!
As for phone calls, my 16 year old son answers "This is Dominos can I take your order". Since they are not allowed to solicit businesses we get put on do not call lists for them.
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