Picture this. It’s 6:00 PM after a long day of work and dinner is steaming in front of you…
*RING, RING, RING.* “Hello?” 10-second pause on the other side… “Hi, is this Mr. (insert your name pronounced incorrectly)?”
Ugh, another telemarketer trying to sell you something.
Telemarketing calls not only ruin your supper. More importantly, they make you wonder who’s giving out your phone number so freely.
The average US Internet user gets 5.5 telemarketing calls per week to their landline phone and 1.5 to their mobile phone.
Want to fight telemarketers? Read on for 4 easy tips.
1. Keep your number to yourself
Your phone number is worth a lot to telemarketing companies, so it’s useful to learn how to prevent them from calling. The most important tip we can give you is this: do not give out your phone number unless absolutely necessary.
Once your phone number is out there, all bets are off. It can be stored, sold, and traded on all kinds of marketing lists and databases.
One way to keep your number to yourself is by giving out a fake phone number. Two-thirds of people we surveyed reported giving out a fake phone number: 78% did so when signing up for a website, and 53% did when signing up for a poll.
But even if you’ve already given out your number, you can still stay somewhat private.
2. The FTC’s National Do Not Call List – Swiss Cheese protection
One of the easiest things you can do to reduce the number of unsolicited calls you get is register for the FTC’s National Do Not Call Registry. You can enter up to 3 numbers, so start with your home phone and cell phone (even though, legally speaking, some types of telemarketing calls to mobile numbers are illegal, like robocalls) to remove these numbers.
You might find yourself saying, “Well, wouldn’t I just be confirming my number to the FTC and giving them an email address too?” The FTC’s Frequently Asked Questions address this concern:
“We collect your phone number and store it in the National Do Not Call Registry so that telemarketers and sellers covered by the FTC’s rules can remove your phone number from their call lists. Telemarketers are required to search the registry every 31 days and delete from their call lists phone numbers that are in the registry. Phone numbers in the registry also may be shared with law enforcement to assure compliance with federal and state law. If you contact us via the Internet, we also collect your email address to confirm your registration request. We will store your email address in a secure manner, separate from your telephone number. We will not share your email address with telemarketers.“
The Do Not Call list won’t protect you from all types of annoying callers. Here are the callers you’re not protected from by being on the list:
- Political organizations;
- Telephone surveyors;
- Companies with which you’ve done business in the last 18 months (and their affiliates and business partners) are still allowed to contact you unless you specifically request to be removed from their lists; and
- Debt collectors
3. People search websites: connecting a number with a name
For those of you who have navigated to people search websites, AKA data broker websites that sell your personal information, you might notice that most have a portion dedicated to reverse phone lookups. This means that not only can someone search for you by name, but that same person can look up a phone number, and these websites will associate it with your name, address, and other personally identifiable information.
To remove your phone number from many of the websites that provide the reverse phone lookup, use these directions. Keep in mind that you’ll need to do a reverse phone search rather than a name search, and follow the same directions as those for removing information in a name search.
4. Use your phone carrier to assist you (a little)
If you have caller ID and use it to actively screen for potential unsolicited calls, then you are ahead of the game. However, for added protection, you can also contact your phone carrier to assist you with blocking a particular number(s) that may be calling you incessantly. Most carriers have blocking protection that they offer to consumers, although they may restrict how many numbers can be blocked.
To sum up–and we cannot state this enough–never give out your phone number unless you absolutely have to. Warranty cards, surveys, loyalty programs, retail counters…just say no!