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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?