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Jan 252013
 
 January 25, 2013  Posted by  Hot Deals, Services
old-fashioned phone

You are just sitting down to dinner, giving the kids a bath or supervising homework when the phone rings.  It’s not a friend or relative, but an annoying telemarketer offering you a spectacular deal for something you never heard of and don’t want. It’s even more annoying when the caller on the other end is a recorded robo-call. Such calls are beyond annoying and intrusive — they are against the law.

The National Do Not Call Improvement Act, better known as the Do Not Call Registry, has been law since February 2008. Theoretically, once you register your phone numbers, they remain on the list permanently, but that’s not always the case. Telemarketers in business before 2008 might not read the list and others choose to ignore it, figuring it will take us and the Feds a lot of time to track them down and punish them. The bad guys also get around the rule by using unlisted numbers which are difficult to trace.  So it’s a good idea to re-register every couple of years.

The law has a lot of loopholes.

It does not apply to businesses with which you do or have done business. So if you have ever bought anything from Amazon, Home Depot, Macy’s or such — as an example — they are entitled to call you, unless you specificially ask them to stop.  Lately, I’ve been getting a lot of calls from energy suppliers offering me what they assure me is a better rate than my own local utility.

The law does not apply to legitimate charities, including religious ones, which doesn’t stop the scam charities from taking advantage of your good will, like the ones I wrote about on NYC on the Cheap that cropped up after Hurricane Sandy. The law also does not apply to politicians seeking your support or to what are described as “surveyors,” also called opinion pollsters.

You can stop the bulk of annoying calls by registering your phone numbers, including cellphone numbers. Many states, like  New York State, also have additional Do Not Call registries.  If you continue to receive calls after registering on the federal and state sites (where available), contact the Federal Trade Commission, your local consumer protection bureau, the Better Business Bureau or all of the above.

My trick is to utilize Caller ID.  Unlike recorded calls from my Congressman, robo-calls from telemarkers rarely engage my answering machine.  So when a call comes in at dinner time, bath time or homework time from “gas assistance,” “unavailable” or “rebate center” — as has happened recently — I just let the phone ring.  And Caller ID records the the calling numbers and the time stamp for me to provide to the FTC.

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Evelyn Kanter

Evelyn Kanter is an award-winning journalist who has been reporting on good deals and warning about bad ones, for longer than she cares to admit publicly. A native and lifelong New Yorker, she was the first consumer reporter for CBS News and for WABC TV “Eyewitness News” and helped launch the “Sales and Bargains” column in New York Magazine. Evelyn is the author or editor of more than a dozen travel guidebooks and apps, including Peaceful Places New York City, and owns and operates NYC On The Cheap and EcoXplorer. A long-time tree-hugger, Evelyn also writes about green travel, green cars and saving the green in your wallet for national and regional publications, including a column syndicated by Motor Matters and for Fodors.com, AAA magazines and airline inflights.

3 comments on “When the ‘do not call’ list doesn’t work

  1. Matt Watts on said:

    What is the number to call to get on the Do Not Call Registry?

  2. Samantha on said:

    Better than Caller ID, create a Google Voice number. It’s free to set up, and you can set it to always go to voice mail. They will email you every time you get a call, and if a message is left it gives a transcript as well as a link to listen to it. I set one up because I don’t have a local number and refuse to give my cell out. I give it to any businesses I deal with and even if they have a legitimate reason for calling it is better than an ill-timed call by an autodialer.

  3. Evelyn Kanter on said:

    Matt — It’s best to click the link for the National Do Not Call Improvement act at the beginning of the second paragraph and register your Do Not Call numbers online.

    Evelyn Kanter
    Living on the Cheap
    NYC on the Cheap
    ecoXplorer