Ways to Stop Unwanted Calls
Unwanted calls are a problem for many Ohioans. This fact sheet from the Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel explains how you can reduce and report those calls.
Telemarketing calls are calls trying to sell products or services over the phone. They may involve live people or robocalls.
Robocalls are automated calls with a prerecorded message usually dialed by a computer. Advanced robocall technology makes it more difficult to know if the caller is a computer or a live person.
Rules for callers
There are laws and rules governing telemarketing, which protect you from getting unwanted calls. For example, businesses cannot use robocalls to sell products or services unless you have given the business your written permission which can be electronic as well. In Ohio, telemarketers are required to give their real name, the name of their company, purpose of the call and what is being sold.
Telemarketers may not:
- Make calls to your home phone before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.;
- Take money from your account without your permission;
- Send advertisements to your computer, cellphone or fax 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.
For more information on exceptions to these rules visit the Ohio Attorney General’s website at www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov.
Reduce unwanted calls
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 can reduce sales calls from marketers.
Sign up for the National Do Not Call Registry. Register by calling toll-free 1-888-382-1222 from the phone number you want to register. Registration is free, never expires, and reduces the number of legitimate telemarketing calls.
You can also register online at www.donotcall.gov with an email address. You must respond to the confirmation email within 72 hours for your number to go on the Registry.
Register each phone number you have individually. If you change your number, you need to register the new phone number. Check if your number is registered at www.donotcall.gov or by calling 1-888-382-1222. Once your number is registered, it can take up to 31 days to go into effect.
You may still receive calls from political and some nonprofit organizations. You may also receive telemarketing calls from companies you have done business with during the last 18 months or ones you have asked to contact you within the past three months. If you want to stop receiving those calls, ask to be placed on their internal do not call list. Companies must honor those requests for five years. Remember the Do Not Call Registry does not stop scammers from calling.
Consider using caller ID to screen calls. If you do not know the name or phone number on your caller ID, DO NOT answer and let the call go to voicemail. Remember that “spoofing,” can make the call appear to be from a local or trusted number.
Do not press buttons on your phone’s keypad to be removed from call lists or to speak to a live person.
Be careful sharing personal information. Putting your phone number on entry forms and contest applications can give telemarketers permission to call you. Read the rules before filling out forms. Always be careful about sharing account, credit card, and Social Security numbers.
Handling unwanted calls
If the company does not identify itself, hang up. If you do not recognize or are unsure of the company, do not answer questions. Remember, you do not have to answer a call.
Ask not to be called again. If you do speak to a live person, ask to be put on the company’s do not call list. If their sales pitch continues, repeat the request and hang up.
Use caution if you do speak with a telemarketer. Ask questions. Take your time. Check out the company and its offer. Never disclose personal or financial information unless you intend to buy.
Reporting unwanted calls
You may still get calls you do not want. Document the date and time of the call, and if possible, the name of the caller and their phone number.
Then, you can report them to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office (AGO). File a complaint at 1-800-282-0515 or www.ohioprotects.org. 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. Using the “Tell Us Your Story” feature on their website alerts the FCC to an issue without filing a complaint.
Learn more about telecommunications, tips for handling telemarketers, and scams at www.occ.ohio.gov, www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov and www.ohioprotects.org. The FTC and the FCC also have more information at consumer.ftc.gov and www.fcc.gov.
For more information on how to file complaints, please visit www.occ.ohio.gov.
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