There’s nothing more annoying than sitting down for a nice dinner and hearing the phone ring. Even worse — you decide to answer it and find you’ve been captured by the long arm of the telemarketing industry.
Recently, I found myself wondering — How can I get telemarketers to stop calling me?
Stand up comedians and water cooler comics alike have used telemarketers and telemarketing as comic fodder for years. Luckily, we do now have a few ways of getting these people off our backs. Depending on what state you live in, the options available vary to stop the telemarketing calls.
It is impossible to ‘reason’ with telemarketers — having worked as a telemarketer in the past, I know for a fact that they are provided with scripted responses for anything you could possibly say. Now, you can try and request to be removed from their call list, but this is not legally binding, and it is unclear if the company must comply. Try the following scripted response for best results:
“‘Put my number on your don’t-call list.”
This is the only way to communicate to the company that you want your specific number blocked. Any other phrase gives them some leeway as to whether or not they will stop calling you or not. Supposedly, they are supposed to stop all calls to your number for ten years after you request this, but again, the legal aspect of this is a very grey area.
For starters, use your caller ID box. If you don’t have caller ID capability on your phone, it is cheap and widely available. The caller ID will usually show telemarketers as “Number Unknown”, or “Number Blocked”, or some random 800 or 888 number. Screen these calls — if someone really needs to get in touch with you from a number that is withheld, they can simply leave you a message. The downside to the caller ID screening method is that it won’t STOP the calls, just keep you from having to talk to the telemarketers. Contact your phone company for more info on caller ID.
National Do Not Call Registry
Recently, the FCC established, together with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), a national Do Not Call Registry. The registry is nationwide, so no matter where you live in the US (or in Canada as well) this list applies to you. All telemarketers (with the exception of certain non-profit organizations) are controlled by the DNCR, and the registry covers both interstate and intrastate telemarketing calls. Supposedly, commercial telemarketers are not allowed to call you if your number is on the registry, but as with most governmental regulation, this is subject to certain exceptions. Still, the national Do Not Call Registry allows you reduce the number of unwanted phone calls to your home phone number or numbers.
You can register your phone numbers for free, and they will remain on the list until you remove them or discontinue service – there is no need to re-register numbers. There are also easy online methods to report unwanted calls, repeated calls after warnings, etc. You can also contact the FTC or FCC directly by phone to report violators. Unfortunately, in my experience, the national Do Not Call Registry is not 100% effective — I have had problems with telemarketers even after reporting their violations. Nothing is perfect, but the telemarketing calls have been reduced by about 75% I’d estimate.
The Do Not Call Registry does not prevent all unwanted calls. It does not cover the following: calls from business or organizations with which you have already established a business relationship, calls for which you have given prior written permission, calls which are not for commercial sales or do not include advertisements, or calls on behalf of tax-exempt non-profit organizations.
As you can see, the DNCR is not a perfect solution, but is a great first step to stop telemarketers from calling you.
Use Cellphones Exclusively
Yes it is true that some telemarketers have begun communicating with consumers via their cellphones. This is a rare occurence, however, and is generally illegal. If you don’t need a home phone (many consumers in this day and age find that a “land line” is a waste of money, with the advent of the internet and cheap cellular technology) cancel your home phone service and switch to cellphones only. I have received perhaps two telemarketing calls on my cellphone ever — and that’s in 12 years of cellphone use — and both companies complied with my request to take my number off their list. For some people, using cellphones exclusively is not a viable option, but if you want to reduce the number of telemarketing calls, switching to cellular phones is a huge step.
Legal Action Against Telemarketers
When all else fails, you may have the ability to take legal action against harassing telemarketers. If all other methods of halting telemarketing calls have failed, you can take things a step further. State to the harassing telemarketer the following line:
“You are required by law to identify your organization, give me your direct contact information, and put me on your no-call list. You may not call me again, and I’m informing you that if I do hear from you again, it will constitute a consulting contract”.
If the telemarketing company fails to meet their legal obligations, you need to report them to your state department of trade and consumer protection, or go straight to the FCC. It would help to keep records of the companies that have called you, and of the violations, times, dates, etc. At some point, their calls become a felony — there is an actual felony for phone harassment, and I have personally had to file a felony complaint against a telemarketer for harassment. Remember to state the above words exactly, keep a good record of the violations, and consider taping the telemarketers via your answering machine so you have evidence.
How do you get telemarketers to stop calling you? Luckily, its easier now than in years past. The options above are viable, legal, and very effective. I’m happy to report that my life is mostly telemarketer free, and when my phone does ring, I can assume its a family member I don’t want to talk to and ignore it as usual. To keep your dinners and family nights phone harassment free, consider caller ID, cell phone usage, the national Do Not Call Registry, or even legal action.