The Phone Handbook
Telemarketing And Privacy
How Did They Get My Name?
Many magazines, credit card companies, banks, clubs, organizations, charities, and retailers offer their customer or donor lists to other businesses for a fee. Professional marketing companies and the credit bureaus that provide information on credit-worthy consumers also compile lists. Your name and phone number may be collected whenever you call a toll-free number, as well as when you fill out surveys or forms on the Internet. Information supplied to the State of Minnesota, such as for your driver’s license, may also be sold to marketers. Each time you call someone with caller ID your name and telephone number are revealed unless you block the release of your name and number. Many people with unlisted or non-published numbers are surprised to find out that this information is released when they call someone with caller ID. Contact your local phone company to find out how to protect your privacy when using caller ID.
Will Placing My Name on the “Do Not Call List” Stop Telemarketing Calls?
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) registers consumers on a national Do Not Call list. The best way to register your number is to sign up at www.donotcall.gov.
Unfortunately, placing your name on the Do Not Call list will not stop all telemarketing calls. For instance, Minnesota law still allows charitable organizations and political organizations to continue to place telemarketing calls to Minnesotans on the Do Not Call list. Businesses with a prior relationship with a customer and solicitors who do not intend to complete a sales transaction over the phone are also allowed to legally continue their telemarketing under the Minnesota law.
How Else Can I Stop Telemarketers from Calling?
You have the power to stop unwanted telemarketing calls by requesting that a company remove your name from the company’s call list. Follow up with companies in writing and clearly state that you no longer wish to receive any calls from them.
You can also reduce the number of telemarketers that have your name on their lists by telling the companies and organizations you do business with not to give out or sell your name, address, or telephone number. When you order from a catalog, sign up for utility service, apply for a credit card, or use a check, include a note stating: “Do not rent, trade, sell, or give away my name, address, or phone number.” You may request that the State not sell your driver’s license information.
The three major credit bureaus, in addition to maintaining your credit report, sell to companies lists of individuals who meet a certain credit criteria. To remove your name from the generated lists, you should call the “Opt Out” hotline for the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, at (888) 5OPT-OUT ((888) 567-8688) or “Opt Out” online at www.optoutprescreen.com.
Can I Use Caller ID to Stop Telemarketers?
Some services are designed to give you more control over incoming calls. These services will have one-time and/or monthly charges and may have only limited success. Caller ID is a service that uses a display on your phone to identify who is calling you. You may lease or purchase a caller ID display unit at a retail outlet or from your local phone company, and you may need to pay your local phone company a monthly fee for the identification data. Because of technical limitations or because callers have blocked the release of the information, caller ID is not able to identify many calls. In addition, callers using computers to place calls to traditional phones can easily falsify their information and appear to be someone else entirely. Caller ID should not be relied upon because it is very easy to falsify. If you are receiving calls from caller ID numbers that are falsified, you may file a complaint with the Minnesota Department of Commerce or the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. Many telemarketers use these limitations to prevent you from using caller ID to screen them out.
When you use caller ID blocking, your calls show up on the other person’s caller ID box as “anonymous” or “private.” Contact your local phone company to find out how to protect your privacy when using caller ID. Caller ID blocking does not work for calls to toll-free numbers — your telephone number is always released to the company or person you are calling. When calling a toll-free number, you have the right to request that your name and number not be used for telemarketing purposes.
Calls from Prerecorded Messages
Two federal laws, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) and a state law, Minn. Stat. 325E.27, prohibit prerecorded messages to residential telephones, except the following:
- Calls you agree to receive, or from entities with which you have an “established business relationship,” or that do not involve sales or advertising
- Calls from tax-exempt nonprofit entities and emergency safety calls
- A call in which the message is preceded by a live operator who obtains the consumer’s consent before the automatic message is delivered
Prerecorded messages must disclose at the outset of the call that the recipient may ask to be placed on the company’s do-not-call list at any time during the message. The message must state, at the beginning, the identity of the caller and during or after the message, the caller’s phone number. Telemarketers may not use prerecorded message calls unless the consumer has first signed a written agreement to receive such calls.
The TSR is enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). You may file a complaint with the FTC as follows:
Federal Trade Commission
Consumer Response Center
600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20580
TTY: (866) 653-4261
The TCPA is enforced by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The FCC can issue citations or impose fines against those violating the TCPA. You may file a complaint with the FCC as follows:
Federal Communications Commission
Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau
Consumer Inquiries and Complaints Division
445 12th Street, SW
Washington, D.C. 20554
TTY: (888) 835-5322
Anyone soliciting business over the phone must tell you that it is a sales call and who they represent before they make their pitch. If it is a prize promotion, they must tell you that no purchase or payment is necessary to enter or win. If you are asked to pay for a prize, hang up. It’s illegal for telemarketers to misrepresent any information, including facts about their goods, investment opportunities, or services. If you think that a telemarketer lied about a product or service, report the company to the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office or the Better Business Bureau.