I’ve received countless phone calls from ‘Rachel from Card Member Services’ and other illegal robocallers hawking various scammy services, from lowering my interest rates to cleaning my ducts to installing a home security system.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, such calls are illegal unless you gave the company written permission to contact you. I never give such permission, nor do I even know the companies involved, and the same is true for most people. Since the calls are obviously unlawful, I can only imagine the quality of the supposed services offered.
If you listen to these calls all the way through, they usually tell you to press a certain number to speak to a live agent and a different number to be removed from the list. Never, ever, ever press the number for list removal!
You might say, “But aren’t they legally required to remove me from the list if I request it?”
In theory, yes. In practice, remember that the call itself is illegal in the first place. You’re obviously dealing with a company that doesn’t care one bit about the Do Not Call Registry. If you press the opt-out number, you won’t be removed from the call list. On the contrary, you’ll receive more calls than ever.
How is such a thing possible? When you press the opt-out number, you tell the illegal caller two things. First, you actually listened to the entire message. Second, you weren’t aware the call was a scam, since you believed the opt-out offer. It’s to the company’s advantage to bombard you with more calls, hoping you’ll listen to the message again and perhaps connect with a live agent to complain that you’re still being called. That gives the agent a chance to bombard you with a sales pitch.
Worse yet, your phone number is now a hot commodity. The company will sell it to other scammers and your unwanted telemarketing calls will go through the roof.
How should you handle illegal robocalls? Here are three ways that are much better than trying to opt out with a key press:
1) Hang up immediately. Don’t even listen beyond the first few words. Disconnect the call as soon as you realize it’s a pre-recorded pitch.
2) Block the number, if possible. Robocallers switch phone numbers frequently, but some use the same number for a while. Your cell phone may have the ability to block certain numbers. If not, there are many apps available. For landlines, Panasonic makes several phones that allow blocking.
3) File a complaint with the FTC. You can do this easily via an online form. The FTC monitors illegal robocalls, and as they gather more information on certain companies, their ability to take action increases. They’ve already shut down several telemarketers who used the ‘Rachel from Card Member Services’ pitch.
You can’t stop robocalls completely, but if you refrain from using the opt out, you’ll protect yourself from being added to even more telemarketing lists.