For many years, I have been on a crusade to stop telemarketers. I hate them. This is an entire industry whose main strategy is based on disturbing you in your home. They have to be stopped.
Luckily, you can stop them, at least in your own home.
One call to the National Do Not Call Registry allows you to control the number of telemarketing and sales calls you receive on your personal phone numbers. By registering your phone number, you'll block most of those unwanted phone calls. Better yet, it's a free service offered by the federal government.
The Federal Trade Commission, the nation's consumer protection agency, created and manages the National Do Not Call Registry. The strong arm to enforce the registry includes the FTC, the Federal Communications Commission and state law enforcement officials.
Unfortunately, despite the fact that the law has been in effect since September 2003, many people have not yet taken advantage of it. Well, here's your chance to end those annoying calls in less than five minutes for free.
I doubt any telemarketer could offer a better deal.
Getting your phone number on the list. There are two ways to register your phone number -- by calling toll-free 1-888-382-1222 (TTY: 1-866-290-4236) or registering online at www.donotcall.gov.
If you use the phone to register, you're only allowed to register one number at a time and it must be the phone number you are calling from.
Use the Web address www.donotcall.gov to register more than one number. You can list up to three numbers at a time. For each number registered online, you'll receive a separate e-mail confirmation. Open each e-mail and click on the link to complete your registration process. Don't sit on this e-mail. You must respond to each within 72 hours, or you'll wind up starting the process over again.
The national registry only collects your phone number, not your name, and it discloses this information to telemarketers and sellers.
If you add your number via the Internet, the registry also collects your e-mail address. But the national registry securely stores this information separately from your phone number and does not share it.
Your phone number will show up on the national registry the next day, but don't expect the calls to stop immediately. The telemarketers must scrub their lists every month.
Your phone number remains on the registry for five years, unless you choose to remove it or your phone number is disconnected.
If you move and get a new number, you'll need to register the new number. The system automatically removes numbers that are disconnected for whatever reason.
Now, as strange as it may seem, there will be some people out there who will discover after a few months that they actually miss telemarketer calls. If you turn out to be one of these people, don't despair.
You can get back on telemarketers' lists just as easily. Call the national registry at 1-888-382-1222 from the telephone number that you wish to put back on the lists. It will take a minimum of 30 days for telemarketers to add your number back to their lists.
Exceptions to the ban. When you register your phone number with the Do Not Call Registry, you make it illegal for most telemarketers and sellers to call you, with a few exceptions. Political organizations, charities and people conducting telephone surveys may still call.
Another caveat: When you establish a business relationship with a company, they may call you for up to 18 months after your last purchase, payment or delivery. If you've only made an inquiry with a company or submitted an application, the company may call you for up to three months. But if you wish the firms to stop contacting you, just tell them and the calls must stop.
You'll also want to carefully read any questionnaires, surveys, sweepstakes forms or requests for free products before filling out any forms. Companies may use any one of these avenues to establish a business relationship with you.
Even if you're not on the national registry, however, you can still ask companies and telemarketers to put you on their own "do not call" list, and they must honor your request.
On the other hand, you may have a favorite business and welcome their sales calls. Even if your name is on the national registry, you can give them written permission to call you.
How to file a 'Do Not Call' complaint. If you receive a phone call from a telemarketer after your number has been registered for three months, you can file a complaint. To do that, call 1-888-382-1222 (TTY: 1-866-290-4236) or visit the registry's Web site, and use the "file a complaint" page.
When filing a complaint, you'll need to have ready the name of the company that called you and/or their phone number, the date on which the company called you, and your registered phone number. You may, but it's not necessary, provide your name and address.
Your complaint is entered into the Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database of consumer complaints available to civil and criminal law enforcement agencies worldwide. Although the FTC will not jump at investigating your single complaint, it will use the database to investigate companies that repeatedly call phone numbers on the Do Not Call Registry.
Go ahead and make your voice heard. Your complaint is important, as it could lead to law enforcement action.