Like many Americans, Diana Colwell is constantly bombarded with solicitation calls. And she’s fed up.
She’s tried asking, she’s tried being stern, and she’s tried being “downright rude,” but they keep calling … and calling. Colwell wrote to us asking if there is anything else she can do to make the calls stop.
“I get calls from the same company every single day,” she complains. “The recording says it’s my ‘final option’ to reduce my credit card debt. It also says if I don’t want any more calls I can push the number five, and I’ve done this every time.”
Blocking the number isn’t an option since the calls come from a different number each time.
“I’ve even received a call from my own number,” she says.
I get these same calls. Not every day like Colwell does, but at least twice a week. I have also pressed the number five to make the calls stop — but gotten the same call the following week, anyway. This company seems to be ignoring the wishes of consumers and federal law. We’ll get back to these solicitations in a moment.
Colwell is also concerned about other calls she receives:
I also get calls from people claiming they represent the Kentucky state police and asking for money for the widows of fallen troopers. I have state troopers in my immediate family who have assured me that they do not raise money over the phone.
I have received calls in the past from the Fraternal Order of Police asking for donations, but I’ve never lived in Kentucky so I can’t speak for them. If Colwell’s relatives insist these calls cannot be legitimate, this isn’t a case of overzealous telemarketing. Unlike the previous type of call, this is more likely a crime in the making.
The simple solution here — to provide no information and immediately hang up — should eventually stop the calls. Once someone figures out you’re not an easy mark, they will typically move on to someone who is.
The final type of call bothering Colwell is a clear, well-documented scam:
The worst one is this moron who says he’s from the some kind of internet service, and there is something wrong with my computer. He wants me to give him access to our computer.
This scam has become so prevalent — and so many people have fallen for it — that the Federal Trade Commission now specifically addresses it in the Tech Support Scams information on its website. The page provides information on how these scams work, what to do if you get a call, and how to recover your information if you responded to a scam.
The most important information given about potential scam calls: Don’t give them any personal or financial information, and don’t give them access to your computer. If you have any reason to believe the call could be genuine, hang up and look up the company’s name and phone number on a box or receipt from them. If you’ve never done business with this company before, it’s highly unlikely that the call is legitimate. Also, legitimate companies never call you out of the blue and ask for passwords or financial information.
Now back to our friendly neighborhood telemarketers and what to do about them.
Register your phone numbers on the National Do Not Call Registry
The FTC allows people to register both their landline and mobile numbers on the National Do Not Call Registry. Once you’ve registered, companies have 31 days to remove you from their call lists.
It is important to note that the registry applies only to sales calls. It does not apply to charities, political organizations, telephone surveyors or debt collectors. If you’ve done business with a company within the last few months or given a company permission to call you, the registry will not prohibit an initial call from that company. But you can ask them not to call again, and if you do, they are required to remove you from their list.
The exemption also does not apply to “robocalls,” since they became illegal on September 1, 2009.
Ask the company to stop calling you
Ask for the name of the caller, the name of the company, the company address and its phone number. Then, a simple, polite “please remove me from your call list,” should do the trick. (Please remember the other person on the phone is probably not a horrible monster, and is simply another human being trying to make a living.) Also keep in mind that companies don’t typically pull their call lists on a daily basis. It may take several weeks before you drop off a list. Give it the same 31 days that is allowed by the Do Not Call Registry.
File a complaint if a company violates your registry
If you receive telemarketing calls starting on day 32, you may file a complaint against the company through the same FTC page. You’ll need to enter your telephone number, along with the date, time and content of the call, including whether it was a recorded message or a human caller. You can report text messages, as well.
There is a rumor that you have to re-register your phone numbers every few years. You don’t. Registrations do not expire, which is why I’ve filed a complaint against the company that has been wanting to lower my credit card debt twice a week for the last six months. I’ve been on the registry since July 2003.
Block the number
If you’re receiving multiple telemarketing calls from the same number, block the number. It’s easy to do on a smartphone. If you have a landline, call your telephone service provider. This works with reputable companies who actually call from the same number. It doesn’t work with an unscrupulous company like the one calling Colwell.
Don’t pick up calls from numbers you don’t recognize
If the number isn’t recognized by your caller ID or if it’s from an unknown or blocked number, let your answering machine or voice mail pick up.
Get a Google Voice number
Among its many services, Google Voice lists calls in an email-like platform and allows you to easily block calls that you no longer wish to receive. When someone calls from that number again, they will receive a message that the phone number has been disconnected.
The most simple solution is to hang up, which won’t get you on a no-call list. The company is likely to keep calling, but this is the least complicated end to a telemarketer’s call.
Unfortunately, none of these suggestions will prevent companies that are not interested in abiding by federal law from calling you.
Some people argue that companies have a “free speech” right to call you and interrupt your dinner. These people believe the U.S. Constitution gives companies the right to say whatever they want, whenever they want, in the interest of selling their product. They also argue that because you have the right to hang up, your privacy is not being invaded.
Others disagree and would argue that the explicit right to privacy outweighs whatever right a company might have to sell you something while you’re in the shower. They would likely argue that the Bill of Rights protects individual freedoms from government intrusion, and that corporations are not people. Repeatedly calling consumers who have asked not to be contacted would be defined as harassment.
Colwell would fall into this latter group, and she just wants the calls to stop. I don’t blame her. In addition to employing the seven suggestions above, if she finds herself on the receiving end of any of the companies for whom we list customer service or executive contacts, she could escalate her request to them.