How to Put a Stop to Telemarketing Harassment

Just say “no” to protect yourself from telemarketing harassment: Internet Scambusters #430

Despite consumer protection laws and the advent of the
National Do Not Call Registry, it seems we can’t escape
telemarketing harassment.

According to one report, 100,000 people complain about it
every month, even though three quarters of all Americans have
listed with the registry.

In this issue, we explain who can and can’t call you and how
to put a stop to aggressive telemarketers.

First, we recommend you check out the most popular articles
from our other sites during the past week:

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Specialty Wood: Your Secret Weapon for Flavorful Meat: Let’s talk a little about how to use specialty wood, and how to find out which ones you like best.

You Don’t Have to Follow Complicated Knitting Instructions: Knitting instructions don’t have to be too complicated for you to be able to knit for charity!

Type 2 Diabetes Prevention: 7 Simple Ways to Avoid Type 2
Diabetes: Make type 2 diabetes prevention tops on your health list with these simple changes in your lifestyle.

On to today’s main topic…


How to Put a Stop to Telemarketing Harassment


Around three-quarters of all Americans have signed up for the
National Do Not Call Registry in a bid to escape the bane of
telemarketing harassment.

But that doesn’t stop hordes of unscrupulous firms from
ignoring the list (and, in doing so, breaking the law) or
hundreds of organizations who are exempted from the rules and
permitted to call you whenever they want.

And usually, whenever they want is whenever you don’t want –
like dinner time or when the next episode of your favorite TV
series is about to start.

What’s more, some of these callers are both persistent and
aggressive, causing us personal stress and railroading us into
buying things we don’t want.

In fact, according to the newspaper USA Today, the Federal
Trade Commission, which administers the Do Not Call list,
receives an incredible 100,000 complaints a month about
telemarketer harassment.

We’ve covered the registration issue in a previous report, The National Do Not Call List.

However, that report was written before a change in the law
which now means that, once you’re on the list, it’s permanent;
you never have to renew registration (though you can opt to
remove it if you wish).

The fastest way is to register online.

The whole process takes just a couple of minutes. And if your
area code subsequently changes, your registration will update
automatically.

Some of those telemarketing harassment complaints we mentioned
undoubtedly will be due to misunderstandings about who can and
who can’t call you, so let’s look at that first.

Who Can and Can’t Call You

Once your name is on the Do Not Call Registry, commercial
companies can’t call you to solicit businesses. They usually
maintain their own call lists and have to check these against
the Do Not Call list every month, removing names of anyone who
has registered.

However political parties can still call you. So can firms
you’ve done business with, even if you merely contacted them
in the prior 18 months — though they must desist if you ask
them to.

Charities also are exempt, but if they use a telemarketing
firm on their behalf, again they must honor any request to
stop calling.

A somewhat gray area has appeared for companies conducting
telephone surveys. Legitimate surveyors are permitted to call
you and this has prompted some unscrupulous firms to call,
claiming to be conducting a survey when, in fact, they’re
soliciting. If they are, they’re breaking the law.

Telemarketing Harassment Techniques

Whether your caller is a scammer or a legitimate firm trying
to sell you a product or service, they know that very few call
recipients are going to say “yes” right off the bat.

They’ll try to convince you, wear you down, or even use
threats.

The techniques they use include:

  • Automated dialers or “robocalls” that simply run through
    massive phone lists and add your name to a computer when you
    answer.

    For them, it’s a numbers game. As with email spammers, they
    know that a certain proportion of their hits will score.

  • The friendly approach, with chit-chat about the weather or
    asking how your day is going.

    They’re trying to warm you up. It’s not labeled “cold calling”
    for nothing.

  • They appear to know a lot about you. As we’ve previously
    warned, the Internet teems with information about you, so this
    doesn’t really mean anything.

  • They imply it’s a follow-up call to an item you’ve
    previously discussed or inquired about, or that they heard
    you’re in the market for something.

  • They use a sense of urgency, usually suggesting an
    opportunity or low price that won’t last.

  • They claim you’ve been singled out for a special deal or to
    receive inside information.

    This is especially common in so-called “boiler room” scams
    that use aggressive telemarketers and high pressure techniques
    to get you to invest in a particular stock or other
    “opportunity.”

  • They become aggressive, insulting — implying you’re stupid
    to pass up this opportunity — or even threatening.

  • They won’t take “no” for an answer and keep calling you
    back.

Protect Yourself Against Telemarketer Harassment

Like spam, you can never eliminate these calls but there are
lots you can do to cut the amount of telemarketing harassment.

  • First and foremost, get on that Do Not Call Registry. Do it
    now.

    By the way, you can register your cell phone as well as your
    landline.

    Although there’s no such thing as a cell phone directory, your
    mobile number may still get on a telemarketing list.

    Contrary to what some people believe, solicitors are permitted
    to call you on your cell, though it’s illegal for them to use
    automated dialers.

  • Use caller ID to screen calls and only pick up calls from
    people you know, leaving your answering device to handle the
    rest.

    But beware the risk of “spoofing,” in which the caller uses
    computer software to pretend they’re someone other than who
    they really are. Read more about this scam in our earlier
    report, Scammers Can Now Use Fake Caller ID Number.

  • If there’s silence when you answer the phone, it’s a call
    from an autodialer. You can hang up, though that doesn’t
    necessarily eliminate the chance you’ll be called again.

  • If a caller appears to know you, don’t say anything to
    confirm or dispute the information they have.

    Don’t try to get even. If you find yourself talking to an
    aggressive telemarketer, you may be tempted either to yell at
    them or play a trick. This doesn’t always work and comes with
    risks.

    Blogs and chat rooms are full of tips like putting the phone
    down on the counter and letting the caller yack on, pretending
    you want to order a pizza, or even passing the phone to a
    child.

    Most telemarketers have seen these (and all the other ruses)
    and, while most solicitors are just doing an honest (and low
    paid) job, some are crooks and may themselves try to get even.

    Believe us, they’re probably a hundred times better at being
    nasty than you are.

  • Instead, just say this: “Thank you, but I’m not interested.
    Please don’t call again. Goodbye.” Then hang up — even if
    they protest or try to talk over you.

    Don’t give them the chance to try to warm you up or intimidate
    you.

    The aim is to get off the line as quickly as possible, Some
    people, especially older folk, find this difficult to do. It
    seems rude. But there’s no other way.

  • If they call again, ask for their name, the name of the
    company, its address and phone number.

    Legitimate companies are obliged to provide this information.

    Repeat your request for them not to call again, say goodbye
    and hang up again.

    If they call again, report them to the FTC and even local law
    enforcement on the grounds that you are being harassed.

  • Never agree to buy over the phone on the spur of the moment.
    Even if you do, certainly never agree to wire money or give
    out your credit card information to someone you don’t know.

  • Switch off your phone ringer and record all incoming calls
    so you only have to respond to the ones you wish to.

  • As a last resort, consider changing your phone number and
    re-registering on the Do Not Call list.

Final Words

You can use most of the above approaches even if you get calls
from people who are exempt from the Do Not Call rules. Just be
firm and polite.

You’ll find some excellent further information from the
Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Although targeted at investors, it also offers general
guidance on the whole subject of telemarketing harassment.

Beware also of anyone who calls you claiming to be from the Do
Not Call Registry.

The organization does not call consumers either to discuss
their listing or to invite them to register.

So it’s a scam, either as an opening to a sales call or to try
to get hold of some of your personal information for identity
theft.

In the age of the Internet, it may seem that the telephone is
declining in importance, but most of us are now using those
very devices to access the web.

Telemarketing harassment, like spam, isn’t going to disappear
anytime soon, so make sure you’re on the Do Not Call Registry
and that when unwanted callers manage to evade that, politely
and firmly just say “no.”

Time to close — we’re off to take a walk. See you next week.