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Telemarketers continue to ignore Do Not Call

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What it is and how to join

The National Do Not Call Registry lets you put your mobile and home phone numbers on a do-not-call list that telemarketers are required to honor. The registry is for personal phone numbers; business office numbers and fax lines cannot be registered.

How to sign up

To place your phone numbers on the Do Not Call Registry, call (888) 382-1222 or go online to: www.DoNotCall.gov.

How it works

Once your number is registered, a telemarketer has 31 days to stop calling. Your registration is permanent; it only ends when you call or go online to remove it.

What it bans

Being on the registry makes it illegal for most telemarketers call to you without your permission.

Who can call

Political campaigns, charitable groups and telephone surveyors are still permitted to call you. (But a sales call can't masquerade as a survey.)

It's OK for companies you have a “business relationship” with to call, or those to whom you've given written permission. That includes companies from which you've made a purchase or to which you've made a payment in the last 18 months.

However, if you ask the business or charity to not call again, it could face $16,000 in possible penalties if it ignores your request. Keep track of the date you made the request.

Prerecorded, informational messages are allowed, such as from your health care provider, a pharmacy about a prescription refill, an airline with flight updates, a school with class scheduling changes, etc.

To file a complaint

To report unwanted calls, or companies or numbers that appear to be violating the federal restrictions, call or go online to the do-not-call contacts listed above.

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By Claudia Buck
Thursday, Aug. 1, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

“Are your carpets dirty?” “Paying too much on your home mortgage?” “Let us help you lower the interest rate on your credit cards!”

Chances are, one of these annoying messages — or something similar — has hit your phone recently. Even if you have caller ID to help block unwanted calls, they still sneak through.

Sometimes it's an automated, recorded “robocall.” Other times, it's a telemarketer who won't take “No” for an answer.

“It's a constant barrage. It drives me nuts,” said Fair Oaks, Calif., resident Dot Boyd, who said she and her husband typically get three to five unwanted sales calls a week. “They're only trying to do their job, but it's so incessant,” said Boyd, who usually either ignores the message or just hangs up.

Like millions of other frustrated consumers, the couple recently relisted their home phone numbers on the National Do Not Call Registry.

Created 10 years ago by the Federal Trade Commission in response to consumer complaints, the registry lets consumers put their personal phone numbers on a no-call list that all telemarketers must abide by — or face stiff fines.

In the past decade, more than 221 million phone numbers were added by consumers to the registry, which can stop “most, but not all” unwanted calls, according to the FTC.

The “do not call” list is just one of many tools used by FTC enforcers to pursue the persistent problem of illegal telemarketers and robocallers.

Lawsuits and million-dollar penalties are another. In recent weeks, the FTC has slapped beefy fines on several companies accused of hitting consumers with unwanted calls.

Last week, it assessed a $3.2 million penalty on a major debt collection company for harassing consumers by phone. In its complaint, the FTC said Texas-based Expert Global Solutions and its subsidiaries repeatedly — and illegally — called consumers to collect debts: early in the morning, late at night, at their workplace and after they'd been asked to stop.

In late June, the FTC handed out its biggest civil penalty ever — $7.5 million — for do-not-call violations on Mortgage Investors Corp., one of the nation's leading refinancers of military veterans' home loans.

Those cases are among more than 100 lawsuits filed against illegal telemarketers in the past decade. So far, the FTC says it's handed out more than $126 million in civil penalties and collected $741 million in takebacks from companies and restitution to victims. It's also shut down companies responsible for “billions” of illegal robocalls.

So why do so many of us still get all those irritating calls?

Blame it on technology. Telemarketers once had to employ boiler rooms of callers who dialed households by hand. Today, all that's needed is a phone-and-Internet connection to spew out thousands of calls a minute.

“It's so efficiently cheap to blast out millions of these calls,” said Kati Daffan, of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. “It's the spam of the telephone.”

Claudia Buck is a personal finance writer for the Sacramento Bee.

 

 
 


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