published Sunday, June 22nd, 2014

Consumer Watch: Blocking unwanted telemarketing calls


by Ellen Phillips

Continuing with last week’s info concerning how to eliminate nuisance phone calls/telemarketers that number right at 200,000 complaints monthly, my research shows that DoNotCall.gov does help some, but don’t stop there. While we also discussed Nomorobo.com, do add the following suggestions to your help list.

When entering contests on the Web, do not write down your real phone number. If the site requires you to list a number, fake ‘em out; start out with 555 as the area code (no authentic numbers begin with 555) and then write a false number to finish it out. If, on the other hand, you err and mistakenly write your true phone number for charities, political organizations, retailers, and Websites, remember you’re opening the door to many more additional groups who will drive you nuttier with increased calls. (For those business people who may need to get in touch with you quicker than with an email - doctors, insurers and so forth - provide your actual phone number.)

Try to block calls from bothersome phone numbers. We often get (in my mind) crank calls from an organization called Telefund, a political action group. Even though the law states if a person has a previous business relationship, calls are acceptable for up to 18 months and I did give to a PAC in the past at this call center, enough is enough! No matter how often I’ve ignored the rings or told them to remove me from their list (which they must legally do), the calls continue. I recently reported Telefund to the FTC and the FCC and hope these government agencies break the telemarketer’s dialing finger off with financial demerits. Moreover, I can only dream enough irritated persons receiving calls report the company so the fines grow large enough to really make an impact on its budget. Not only has the government sued for millions of dollars on behalf of irate Americans, but also it’s a big business for some consumers who actually make their living suing companies who don’t adhere to the Do Not Call Registry.

But back to this particular tip: blocking calls. Some telecom providers allow customers to block incoming calls from specific numbers so call your phone company to see if this offer is available. Unfortunately, unethical telemarketers abound - and they use “spoofing” to get their calls through. Spoofing allows the scammer number to appear as a different number each time so, in all innocence, you pick up the phone. Gotcha! Other blocking techniques include: anonymous call blocking, which blocks any unidentified incoming number; personalized ring, which identifies preferred callers with a unique ring; and Privacy Manager, which prompts unidentified callers to name themselves before the phone rings so you can decide whether or not to answer. Again, check with your phone company for its offerings.

Typically, these blocking measures come with a monthly fee, which may be well worth it for your peace of mind. A one-time expense many consumers like is the inbound phone call blocker that you buy at most electronic stores. You give a special code only to those folks with whom you wish to talk, and all others simply can’t reach you (until they get technologically savvier, which they ultimately will…)

And, finally, readers can always use my drama queen trick which, when I feel like a center stage day, has worked for years. Just be certain the callers are really telemarketers. Whether the call is for me or my husband, I burst into very loud (make believe) sobs and act as if I’ve just come home from “whomever’s” funeral. By the time I’ve shrieked and screamed for a minute or two, the caller - usually babbling apologies - can’t wait to hang up and never calls back!

Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. Her Consumer Watch column appears every Sunday. Email her at consumerwatch@timesfreepress.com.

about Ellen Phillips...

Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. Her Consumer Watch column appears on Saturdays in the Business section of the paper. An expanded version is at www.timesfreepress.com under Local Business.

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