5 Tips to Stop Those Annoying Robo-Calls

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You hear the phone ring, pick it up, and there’s nobody on the other end — just a recorded message. Another victim of “robo-calling,” which is especially common during election season.

The practice may be terrifically annoying, but it isn’t illegal. Even if you’re signed up with the National Do Not Call Registry — which threatens telemarketers with fines of up to $16,000 per call — you can still receive robo-calls from certain organizations. The list of exempt groups includes companies you’ve done business with, political campaigns, non-profits, debt collectors and survey companies.

But just because the government won’t stop them doesn’t mean you can’t. Here are some things you can do that might help:

  1. If you get a pre-recorded message, try pressing star-pound-zero (*#0) on your phone. A commenter on a New York Times article said this will disrupt the call, while an article on productivity blog Lifehacker says pressing the pound key will get you taken off that caller’s list altogether.
  2. Consider signing up at StopPoliticalCalls.org, a service run by non-profit group Citizens for Civil Discourse. They’ve started a registry similar to the national Do Not Call list, but specifically for discouraging political campaigns. There’s no law backing it, but they’ve gotten commitments to cut the calls from several political campaigns. You can get put on the list for free, though there are paid options as well.
  3. If you’re not already signed up, get on the National Do Not Call Registry. It’s free, and your number is never taken off the list. This should stop all telemarketing calls. It works with a cell phone or a landline number.
  4. If you’re still getting calls after being on the Do Not Call registry for a month, you can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission which manages the list. Sometimes enough complaints can get policy changed — that’s how most robo-calling got banned in 2009. If the call comes from an identifiable business, you should also report it to the Better Business Bureau.
  5. Read the terms and conditions for your purchases carefully. Buried in those agreements might be a clause agreeing to these annoying calls — and robo-calling isn’t illegal if you’ve opted in to receive it from someone, or if you’re already doing business with them. But if you’re getting calls from these people, you can still stop it by specific request. Call them and tell them to take you off their list — the Federal Trade Commission requires they comply. Keep a record of the date you make the request and follow up with the FTC if the business keeps calling.

If it’s online marketers you’re looking to get rid of, check out our story, Will “Do Not Track” Do For Computers What “Do Not Call” Did for Phones?

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Comments & discussion

We welcome your opinions, but let’s keep it civil. Like many businesses, we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone. In our case, that means those who communicate by name-calling, racism, using words designed to hurt others or generally acting like an uninformed bully. Also, comments that include links to email addresses or commercial websites typically aren't posted. This isn't a place to advertise your business.

  • https://www.facebook.com/DakinAssociates Shaun Dakin

    Thanks for the mention!

    Another thing you can do is re-register to vote and leave your phone number off the registration form. That will help for the smaller campaigns with little data sophistication.

    Shaun Dakin
    Founder – StopPoliticalCalls.org

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the helpful article! By my experience I can also recommend looking up annoying/suspicious numbers on the different reverse lookup directories like http://www.everycall.us/ and block them with various phone apps, thanks God there are a lot of them now. Although it works only for cell phones. It’s better than National Do Not Call Registry if there is any use of it at all. 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_BECTAIJODVQFWY6EWDHCVLAPJQ Jum

    Re: #2, suggesting we sign up with the non-profit StopPoliticalCalls.org, that information is out of date and “no longer operative”. Perhaps the original organization sold their name,or perhaps they always intended to charge a fee, but StopPoliticalCalls.org is decidedly FOR PROFIT. They say they will will contact every major organization that robocalls and ask each to please stop, if it’s not too much trouble…all for the “reasonable” price of $24.99.

    Be advised #2 is a scam.