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.
If you enjoyed this, please also read:
- How to make the most of your charity dollars
- Five New Year’s resolutions that will save you money
- Get charities to take your unwanted stuff