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How To Strike Back At Telemarketers

2008-09-17 08:00:00

It happens just as you're sitting down for dinner - or during the best part of your TV show - the phone rings and it's a telemarketer.

Years of insults, threats, and loud hang-ups haven't stopped them, so the next time you get one of those calls, don't hang up. According to government officials and several consumer advocates, you could finally get the last word if you keep them on the phone as long as you can and ask lots of questions.

Sheryl Juber has been trying to stop telemarketers from calling her cell phone. "I don't know how they get my number, I'm on the do not call list," she said.

She's still getting calls, months after we interviewed her about telemarketers who were violating the National Do-Not-Call Registry by using mysterious numbers. One guy even swore at her when she tried to get him to stop.

"I flat out told them please don't call me. I'm on the do not call list. Don't call me. And that's when the guy said "why don't you go **** yourself. And then he hung up," she said.

The Federal Trade Commission wants people like Juber to file complaints against these companies. The more complaints the FTC gets, the easier it is to track those violators down and fine them.

How do you do that?

You have to play along with the telemarketer and get as much information as possible.

Consumer groups recommend these questions:

  • What's your name?
  • What's the name and the address of the company you represent?
  • What's the company phone number?
  • Are you an employee or do you work for a telemarketing service?
  • Does your company have a pre-existing business relationship with me?
  • Does your company have a written call policy?
  • Will you send me a copy of your do not call registry?
  • Those are just some of the questions. If they don't cooperate, they can be fined $500 for each question they refuse to answer. Problem is, you need to know who they are.

    "$500 or $5,000 - if you can't get the information, it's going to be really hard to fine anybody," said Juber.

    Juber isn't the only one who's skeptical.

    "Who knows to fine them? I mean, they're not going to report themselves. Who are we supposed to call if we don't have the information they're supposed to give us?" one woman we talked to on the street said.

    But it does work, sometimes. The FTC says it has handed out more than 8-million dollars in civil penalties. Still, fewer than one percent of violations have been reporting. So, keep chatting. As painful as that may be, you may just get a nugget that will finally get your phone to stop ringing.

    "I think the first time somebody gets nailed, then, I think it'll really make a difference."

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