Do Not Call and Other Ways to Stop Unwanted Calls

Do Not Call and Other Ways to Stop Unwanted Calls

A corded telephone handset

Unwanted calls are a problem for many Ohioans. This fact sheet from the Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel, your residential utility consumer advocate, explains how you can reduce and report unwanted calls.

Telemarketing calls are calls trying to sell products or services over the phone. Telemarketing calls may involve live people or robocalls.

Robocalls are automated calls with a prerecorded message. Robocalls dial your phone number automatically with a computer. Advanced robocall technology is making it more difficult to know if you are being called by a computer or a live person.

Some robocalls can be scams. A scam is an illegal attempt to get your personal information or money. You can become a victim of a scam if you are persuaded by a dishonest caller to provide personal or banking information. Scammers can fake the name and number that shows up on your caller ID, making it look like a call is from a legitimate organization like your local utility. That’s called spoofing.

What are the rules for callers?

There are laws and rules governing telemarketing. These rules protect you from getting unwanted calls. For example, businesses cannot use robocalls to your home phone or cellphone to sell products or services unless you have given the business your written permission. During sales calls, telemarketers are required to give the following information:

  • Their name and phone number;
  • The name of their company, a product description and the price; and
  • The risk and earnings potential of investment offers.

Telemarketers may not:

  • Make calls to your home phone before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.;
  • Take money from your bank account without your permission;
  • Send advertisements to your fax machine, computer, or cellphone without your permission; or
  • Ask you to pay by non-conventional payment methods, such as providing the PIN from a cash reload card or using cash-to-cash money transfers like MoneyGram or Western Union, etc.

There are exceptions to these rules. For example, robocalls may be used to contact you if they provide informational messages, like school announcements, emergency messages from government officials, and flight information. Phone surveys are allowed, even if they are robocalls, so long as they are not used to sell a product or service. Calls from debt collection, political or some nonprofit organizations are also allowed.

How can I avoid unwanted calls?

Consider using caller ID. Caller ID can be purchased from your telephone service provider. If you do not know the name or phone number on your caller ID, do not answer. Be careful, however. Some telemarketers use a process called “spoofing,” which makes caller ID show that the call is from a local or trusted number. If you are not sure a call is legitimate, let it go to voicemail.

Be careful sharing your personal information. Be careful before giving your phone number, such as on entry forms and contest applications. Read the rules before filling out forms, because you may be giving telemarketers permission to call you. Always be careful about sharing account numbers, credit card numbers, and Social Security numbers.

Sign up for the National Do Not Call Registry. The Registry is free, your phone number is never taken off the list, and it reduces the number of telemarketing calls. Register by calling toll-free 1-888-382-1222 from the phone number you want to register.

If you have internet access and an email address, register online at www.donotcall.gov. If you sign up online, you will be sent a confirmation email. Respond to the email within 72 hours to get your phone number on the Registry.

Be sure to register each phone number individually if you have more than one. If you change your phone number, you need to register the new number. You can check if your phone number is registered at www.donotcall.gov or by calling toll-free 1-888-382-1222. Once your phone number is registered, it can take up to 31 days before it goes into effect.

After you register, you may still receive calls from the exceptions mentioned above, like political and some nonprofit organizations. You may also receive telemarketing calls from companies you have done business with during the last 18 months. If you want to stop receiving telemarketing calls from them, ask to be placed on their internal do not call list. Companies must honor those requests for five years. Also, the Do Not Call Registry does not stop scammers from calling.

What can I do if I get an unwanted call?

If the company doesn’t identify itself, hang up. If you receive a call from a company that does not identify itself or that you do not recognize, do not answer questions. Do not press buttons on your phone’s keypad to be removed from call lists or to speak to a live person. Always remember you do not have to answer a call if you do not recognize the number.

Ask that they do not call again. If you receive a robocall from a company you know, the menu should give you the option of being placed on the company’s internal do not call list. If it doesn’t, hang up. If you do speak to a live person, ask to be placed on the company’s do not call list. If the caller continues the sales pitch, repeat that you want no more calls from the company, say you are ending the call, and hang up.

To avoid unwanted calls from electric and natural gas marketers, contact your utility company to be placed on the utility’s do-not-contact list. Joining this list should always be free and should reduce sales calls from marketers.

If you choose to speak with a telemarketer to learn about the products or services being offered, use caution, and follow these tips:

  • Check the telemarketer’s credentials. Get the name, address, and phone number of the company the telemarketer is calling for and check its credentials with your local Better Business Bureau.
  • Ask questions. Specifically, ask the company to send written information on the product, service, or charity before purchasing or donating.
  • Do not disclose financial information. Do not give information like your bank account number, credit card number, or prepaid card number over the phone. Do not send money to anyone who demands an immediate payment.

How can I report unwanted calls?

Even with all these ways to stop unwanted calls, you may still get calls. You can report unwanted calls to the following agencies:

The Ohio Attorney General’s Office (AGO) can penalize telemarketers who call a phone number on the Do Not Call Registry. Contact the AGO at 1-800-282-0515 or file a complaint at www.ohioprotects.org. Unwanted Call Notification forms are available to print on the website and can be mailed to:

Ohio Attorney General
Consumer Protection Section

30 E. Broad St., 14th Floor
Columbus, Ohio 43215

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) enforces Do Not Call laws. File a complaint with the FTC at reportfraud.ftc.gov and the Do Not Call Registry at www.donotcall.gov or by calling 1-888-382-1222.     

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) accepts complaints regarding telemarketers and telecommunications issues at 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322) or at www.fcc.gov/complaints. Complaint forms are available to print on its website, and can be faxed to 1-866-418-0232 or mailed to:

Federal Communications Commission
Consumer and Governmental
Affairs Bureau
Consumer Inquiries and Complaints Division

445 12th St. SW
Washington, DC 20554

You can also alert the FCC about an issue without filing a complaint by using the “Tell Us Your Story” feature on their website.

Note: the FCC does not resolve individual unwanted call complaints, but the information is used for policy decisions and for potential enforcement actions against callers violating FCC rules.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) accepts complaints regarding phone providers or telemarketers and helps solve issues with a business. File a complaint or seek to resolve an issue at https://www.bbb.org/file-a-complaint or by calling your local BBB. You can also alert the BBB and others of a possible scam by reporting it to the BBB Scam Tracker at www.bbb.org/scamtracker.

When filing a complaint with the above agencies, you will need to provide the following information:

  • Your name, address and phone number;
  • The date and time of the call;
  • The phone number and name (if possible) of the telemarketer.

Additionally, you can file a complaint against a telemarketer at your county’s small claims court, which may require you to pay a filing fee. You can seek up to $1,500 per violation.

If you receive an unwanted call, be cautious, report the caller to the agencies that accept complaints, and take steps to block them from calling again. Learn more about telecommunications topics and scams on OCC’s website.


 

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