Telemarketers are almost universally hated. No one wants to be interrupted in the middle of dinner, when relaxing in front of the TV, or even when taking a nap, by a telemarketer’s fake cheerfulness.
When the National Do Not Call Registry started in 2004, it sounded like a great solution. It threatens hefty fines for telemarketers who call you when your number is on the list.
Signing up for the Do Not Call Registry is a good first step, but unfortunately it doesn’t stop all telemarketers. If your number isn’t on it already, go to https://www.donotcall.gov/ or call 1-888-382-1222. That adds your phone number permanently to the list. It stops ethical companies that follow the law, but unfortunately there are many rogue business that don’t care about legal compliance. They use fake Caller ID numbers, use robocallers, and hire offshore firms to bombard American homes with a barrage of phone spam.
I’m an avid follower of the www.800notes.com website, which lets spam call recipients document the phone number and call details. Not surprisingly, many Do Not Call Registry violators are scammers who aim to rip people off, so it’s no wonder they make illegal calls.
I write about scams regularly, and I’ve learned the best ways to handle telemarketers who break the law. Here are my suggestions:
1) Hang up immediately when you realize that you’ve answered a telemarketing call. Technically you should stay on the line and ask the caller to put you on the company’s “do not call” list. Realistically, if you’re already on the Do Not Call Registry, the company is already ignoring the law and isn’t likely to honor your request. Thus, it’s a waste of time to engage the caller.
Many illegal callers use taped robocall messages, like the infamous “Rachel from Card Member Services” or sophisticated voice recognition software that tricks you into believing you’re talking to a regular person. If a recorded message tells you to press a certain number to be taken off the call list, don’t do it. That just confirms that a live person answered and gets you bombarded with even more calls.
If you don’t hang up immediately and have the misfortune to be drawn into a conversation, just hang up. People on 800notes.com often say, “I had to listen because the caller wouldn’t let me hang up.” That makes me roll my eyes because unless hand came through the phone and physically restrained them, nothing stopped them but a misguided sense of politeness. Telemarketers are rude for illegally calling you, so don’t hesitate to be rude right back.
2) Report the call. The Do Not Call Registry website has a link for filing complaints about illegal callers. Often the government can’t do much because the Caller ID is fake or the company is located overseas, but prosecutions do sometimes happen. It only takes a minute to file a complaint, and it might do some good.
3) Block repeated callers. Sometimes illegal telemarketers don’t get the hint when you hang up. Find out if your landline or cell phone provider has a call blocking service. If not, or if there’s a charge, consider getting a blocking app for your cell phone. For landlines, I personally recommend one of the Panasonic phone models that has built-in call blocking capabilities. There’s also a device called the Digitone Call Blocker that gives you a wide array of options for dealing with unwanted calls.
4) Get a throwaway phone number. Once you contact a business, it has the right to harass you with calls for 18 months unless you ask it to stop. Even then, it might not honor your request. That’s why I love www.google.com/voice, which gives you a free phone number and an impressive array of features. You can set it up to ring on your main phone and block unwanted callers easily. Many telemarketers don’t even get through to you because Google Voice automatically recognizes them as spam.
Don’t let telemareketers turn your phone into an annoyance. Follow these simple steps and you’ll shoot most of them down, even if they violate the Do Not Call Registry.