Getting rid of those pesky sales calls
God bless the World Wide Web and a little site called antitelemarketer.com.
I’ve ranted in the past about my disdain for telemarketers, but things still haven’t gotten better in my house. In fact, I think they call me more. And it’s not just the calls.
If you have email or a fax machine, you are bombarded with useless, time- and paper-wasting solicitations that make you want to pull your hair out.
A couple of weeks ago, local attorney and fellow Sierra Sun columnist Jim Porter shared with us how to get removed from junk mail lists. Inspired, I did a little digging myself and came across some ways to deal with the insidious callers, emailers and faxers of the world.
If you have a computer or even a phone, these tips can go a long way toward warding them off when you are trying to enjoy the precious few moments at the end of the day reserved for the people you care about.
– http://www.antitelemarketer.com is a funny look at the ways many telemarketers break the law to sell you whatever they’re hawking. It also provides links to some sites where you can register to have your name taken off telemarketing lists.
– MCI consumer affairs – if you use MCI for long distance, they probably don’t ever call you. If, however, you use another long-distance service, MCI might be the bane of your existence with their constant calls. Call (800) 289-6722 to have your name removed from their telemarketing database. The company also publishes a “do not call” policy which, upon request, they will send you.
– You can also call the National Fraud Information Center at (800) 876-7060 if you suspect someone questionable about services being offered.
– I was a little shocked to find out the real truth about those “club cards” offered by supermarkets. Sure, I carry one in my wallet and am not about to give it up considering the savings they offer, but you need to be aware your buying habits are tracked in a database and used to target you.
Banks, I understand, do the same thing. It’s a little scary.
I found some tips on http://www.ecofuture.org that might help out:
– Don’t fill out warranty cards for products you buy. They are not necessary except in unusual situations and you can be certain your information will be sold.
– Don’t give your address or telephone number when store clerks ask for it. One of my favorite electronics stores, which will go without mention (suffice it to say they claim to have answers when you have questions), always asks for your telephone number and/or address.
Believe me, they don’t need it. Make up one if you have to.
– Don’t let a company you call return your call. They will place your phone number in a database which is for sale.
– When you subscribe to a magazine, get a new credit card or open any sort of account, state specifically that you do not want your personal information sold.
– Don’t ever give out your Social Security number or you mother’s maiden name. Your SS number shouldn’t be on anything other than official forms (tax forms, employer records, etc.) It certainly shouldn’t be in the hands of marketers.
– Never enter contest that require your phone number. There’s no such thing as a “free 8×12 portrait,” or a “trip for two.”
– When paying bills by mail, ink out your phone number on personal checks before mailing them.
– Have “Endorsee agrees to pay $500 for any junk mail sent to your name” printed in the endorsement block of your personal checks. I like this one.
– One of my favorite web sites out there is Californians Against Telephone Solicitations, found at http://www.StopJunkCalls.com. Among other things, offered on this site is a book called, “So…You Want to Sue a Telemarketer.”
Which brings me to an interesting, little-known law. Under U.S. Code Title 47 227(b)(1)(c), it is illegal for someone to send you an unsolicited fax. If they do, the law says you can take them to court for $500 in damages.
I don’t know how likely you are to collect, but just the threat of it might be enough to ward them off. The anti-telemarketer website has a copy of the law you can copy and fax to the offending party.
As for email, one of the most annoying things out there is the fact the solicitors tend to mask their actual email address with a false one, thereby keeping you from replying to them.
I have two ways to deal with these. Most email programs worth their salt have a “block address” function. It won’t keep new solicitors away, but it will ensure you won’t get any future email from the one you block.
The other thing you can do is go to www/networksolutions.com/cig-bin/whois/whois and type in the URL address the email directs you to. This will come up with a company name, physical address, along with personal information and email addresses of the principals involved.
You can then email them to have yourself removed from their lists.
Obviously, a lot of effort is required to keep these people away, but it can be fun, as well. I enjoy threatening these shady characters who sell you a product one day, then turn around and sell your personal information the next.
Oh, and one more thing. The newest thing in telemarketing calls is the “two-hello” pickup. It works like this: you answer a ringing phone and say “hello.” You are met with silence, so you have to say “hello” again. At this point, their machines alert the telemarketer someone has answered. If you have to say “hello” twice, fight the urge and hang up.
If they call back, you have a jump on them when they say, “Good evening, sir/ma’am. Is Mr. or Mrs. so and so there?”
Me, I like to talk to them like they’re a long, lost friend from high school.
“Brian from MCI? How the heck have you been? I see you haven’t made much of yourself in life. By the way, were they ever able to clear up that nasty rash of yours?”
It’ll usually do the trick, and then some.
James Ball is the Sierra Sun sports editor who is a sadist in the truest sense of the word. His Social Security number is
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