TypewriterFrom The Urbach Letter – July 2002

Return to Archive

Stop Telemarketing Calls - Five Things You Can Do Today

Do you hate getting telemarketing calls as much as I do? Like me, I'm sure you resent having to drop everything and run to the phone… only to be on the receiving end of a high-pressure sales pitch (or just as frequently these days, “dead air,” when the dialing computer can’t match you up with a live telemarketing drone in time). Well, there’s plenty you can do to fight back. Start with these five simple strategies:

1. Get on the “Do Not Call” list
Many states maintain centralized do not call lists. In New York it’s run by the Consumer Protection Board NYS Do Not Call List. Go there now and add yourself to the list, or register by telephone by calling 1-866-622-5569 (there’s no charge in New York, and it’s free or close to free elsewhere). Also, whenever a telemarketer calls, say this phrase: “Place this number on your do-not-call list.” There are exceptions for charities and some others, but most for-profit telemarketers are required to maintain do-not-call lists. If you’ve requested to be on their do-not-call list, they’re liable for a hefty fine (up to $5,000 in NY) if they ever call you again.

Now, the rules are different when I’m in the office, taking calls on my business phone; I’m a bit more tolerant of business-to-business phone solicitations. However, when I’m at home eating dinner and telemarketers attempt to invade my private time with my family, I have a zero-tolerance policy. No matter what the pitch, I have the same response: “I’m not interested.” Quickly followed by, “Put this number on your do-not-call list.” Click.

2. Never buy anything from an inbound telemarketing call
If you do, you’ll be placed on a “sucker list” which will usually be sold to other telemarketing firms, ensuring even more calls. Don’t engage in conversation with telemarketers. Although the majority of them are low-wage employees of huge telemarketing operations, there are some really bad apples out there – con artists with sophisticated ways to invade your privacy and take your money. Not long ago there was a company whose four-word name had the acronym H.O.L.D. During their telemarketing pitch, the phone solicitors would feign an interruption, and casually ask the homeowner, “Can I put you on hold?” By saying yes, the unsuspecting “mark” signed him or herself up for an expensive program offered by the HOLD company!

3. Get out of the phone book
At a bare minimum, call the phone company today and delete your street address from your directory listing. If you want people to still be able to look up your phone number, just list your first initial, last name, and city (women especially should use initials instead of a first name). This will also cut down on the amount of junk mail you’ll receive; if they don’t have your street address, they can’t send bulk mail to you. If you want to reduce calls by telemarketers, then you should get a “true” unlisted number. Unfortunately, this will definitely impair “old friends” from reconnecting with you – and the phone company will slap on an added monthly fee.

4. Get Caller ID with Anonymous Call Rejection (ACR)
If you have ACR on your phone line, you’ll definitely get fewer telemarketing calls. However, your friends who block the display of their phone numbers on caller ID will have to dial *82 before they can get through to you. A minor annoyance to be sure. Here’s info on Verizon’s ACR service.  If you’re concerned about privacy (and you should be), then it’s a pretty good idea to block your name and number from being displayed on caller ID. It’s called “All Call Blocking.” Here’s info on ACB.  Please note that if you call a toll-free number (800, 888, 877, etc.) or a 900 number, even with ACB, your ID info will still display.

5. Use Appropriate Technology
There are a lot of gadgets out there that claim to help cut down on telemarketing calls. Some are very good solutions to this vexing problem (like the “Easy Hang-up” described in the “Cool Thing of the Month” sidebar). However most are too draconian or disruptive to your normal way of life, requiring callers to enter security codes or leave messages before your phone will actually ring. There’s a new device called the “TeleZapper” (http://www.telezapper.com) that claims to work automatically, sending a signal which tells telemarketing call centers that your phone is disconnected. However, I’ve heard mixed reviews of its effectiveness and can’t endorse it to you yet.

Return to Archive

(c) Copyright 2002-2010 Victor Urbach
This article
may be reprinted with permission and attribution