Friday, July 1, 2011

The Do Not Call Registry - a bad joke?

The Federal Do Not Call Registry was intended to put an end to annoying telemarketer calls.  It ain't working!

The problem with laws is, they only work for people who follow them.  You and I feel guilty about jaywalking and would not imagine committing credit card fraud (well I wouldn't - don't know about you!).

But to others, laws are made to be broken, particularly when there is money to be made.

The Federal Do Not Call Registry was designed to filter out telemarketer calls, if you did not want to receive them, and for the most part, it works - for so-called "legitimate" telemarketers. 

But the real criminals walk right through that invisible wall the same way an abusive husband walks through a restraining order.  They're criminals - fly-by-night operators trying to make a quick score.  So they don't care about "do not call" lists and possible fines.  They'll be out of town before the month is out.

The first calls I got were from an "Energy Audit" company - and when I mentioned that I was on the do not call list, they talked even faster, saying that they were not selling anything and thus were exempt and wouldn't I want to save 50% on my energy bills?  I hung up.  They called again the next day and I hung up again.

The next call was a robo-call from 701-509-8703 (also illegal, unless political) and said they could get me credit card rates as low as 6.5%!!! if I pressed 9.  Now I already have the lowest interest rate card in the Country - Simmons First and that is a 7.15% card.  But I pressed "9" for a laugh and asked the operator which card company they represented - and she hung up.

Now, bear in mind that I am on the Federal Do Not Call Registry - it ain't working.

I typed in the number of the second company (on my caller ID) into Google and found a whole host of complaints about the company.  What they want to do is Phish on the Phone.  They call and say your card has been stolen or lost and to give them your card number to "confirm" - and people get scared and they do.

I have Caller Block on my phone, which is a bundled service with my voicemail ($7 a month, AT&T, and yea, I hate paying for subscription services!).  I entered their number into the caller block.  This is a great service if you are getting harassing calls - but of course, they can call from another number if they want to.

That service also includes a Caller ID Block-Block, which blocks calls from people who have enabled Caller ID Block - they get a nice recording saying that I don't accept such calls, and they need to unblock their caller ID if they want to talk to me.

The energy company's number did not appear on my caller ID list, so I could not block it.  I am not sure why.  I also googled this and saw that it is a multi-state scam - Texas, Florida, Arizona, and Georgia.   The scam here is that they claim to be able to save you money on your utility bills by putting in solar panels and you will get a tax rebate.   But apparently, they overcharge for this service - if they don't in fact take your money and just leave.

The one good thing about the Federal Do Not Call Registry is that if someone DOES call, and you are on the DNC list, well, it is like Police Tape marking out the scene of a crime (just as annoying Internet ads tip you off they are bad bargains - by being annoying!) .  These people are criminals and con artists, period.  Do not give them information, do not invite them to your home, do not listen to their spiel.  Just hang up.

Add them to call blocker.  File a complaint with the FCC, if you want to  (Fat lot of good that will do).  But really there isn't too much you can do, to prevent getting such calls.

On the various websites I visited, some people complained that they were called at 2 in the morning or called 4 or 5 times.  I am not sure how to combat this, other than to unplug your phone, which sucks, as you might miss an important emergency call.

Unfortunately, today, a lot of people never even answer the phone anymore - they let it go to voicemail and see who called first.  That is kind of sad, as it makes the phone devolve into a passive-aggressive instrument.

But with these telemarketing calls on the rise, it is no wonder people are resorting to such means.

Note:  In the old days, people used to call and get you to say the word "Yes" which they would then record and then "slam" you to an expensive long-distance service, which you might not notice until the next billing cycle.  Some companies were fined heavily for this.  Others attempt to "cram" services onto your phone bill, for example, by saying they will pay you for a survey or say you have to sign up for the service to enter a contest  - but can cancel within 30 days! (negative option - good luck with that).

Call your carrier and ask them to lock your long-distance provider and to lock out any cramming services.  These should be free services.  And read your bill carefully - you have 30 days to contest slammed services.