Fact Sheet 5b:
Frequently Asked Questions about Telemarketing


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Copyright © 2007 - 2014
Privacy Rights Clearinghouse
Posted March 2007
Revised June 2013

This FAQ is an addendum to our Fact Sheet 5 on telemarketing (https://www.privacyrights.org/fs/fs5-tmkt.htm). It provides answers to questions that we are often asked by individuals who contact us concerning telemarketing.

  1. How do I sign up for the Do Not Call Registry?
  2. How can I confirm that I am indeed listed on the Do Not Call Registry?
  3. A telemarketer continues to call my home even though I am listed on the Do Not Call Registry. How do I file a complaint?
  4. I received an email message warning me about telemarketers calling cell phones. What should I do?
  5. I keep getting junk faxes. What can I do?
  6. A charity called and asked for a donation. I want to donate, but how can I be sure the charity is legitimate?
  7. I keep getting a recorded message telling me to call a toll-free number, but I am on the Do Not Call list. What should I do?
  8. I keep receiving telemarketing calls, but they are coming from a foreign country.  What can I do?
  9. Ever since I have installed my new phone number, I keep getting sales calls.  What can I do to make the calls stop?
  10. I keep getting phone calls and when I answer no one is there. Why is this happening?

1. How do I sign up for the Do Not Call Registry?

The Do Not Call Registry is maintained by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). You can sign up for the national Do Not Call Registry in either of two ways:

  • The FTC's toll-free phone number is 1-888-382-1222 (TTY: 1-866-290-4236).
  • Online registration is available at the FTC's Web site, www.donotcall.gov

Telemarketers covered by the Do Not Call Registry have up to 31 days from the date you register to stop calling you. Your phone number will stay on the Do Not Call Registry permanently, unless you ask for your number to be removed from the list, or until you change your phone number.

2. How can I confirm that I am indeed listed on the Do Not Call Registry?

If you signed up for the Registry through the FTC, you can verify that your phone number is on the Registry by going to https://www.donotcall.gov/confirm/Conf.aspx.

3. A telemarketer continues to call my home even though I am listed on the Do Not Call Registry. How do I file a complaint?

Before you complain, please note there are several exceptions to the Do Not Call Registry, described below.

  • Charities
  • Surveys
  • Researchers
  • Political campaigns
  • Companies with which you have a business relationship or have made an inquiry or application
  • Companies to which you have given written consent to remain on their calling list

If your number has been on the Do Not Call Registry for at least 31 days and you receive a call from a telemarketer that you believe is covered by the Do Not Call Registry, you can file a complaint at the Registry’s website at www.donotcall.gov or by calling the Registry’s toll-free number at 1-888-382-1222.   

To file a complaint, you must know either the name or telephone number of the company that called you.  You also must provide the date that the company called you and your registered phone number. You may call the Registry’s toll-free number at 1-888-382-1222 to file a complaint.

Do Not Call complaints will be entered into the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel system, a secure, online database available to more than 1,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies.  While the FTC does not resolve individual consumer problems, your complaint will help the FTC investigate the company and could lead to law enforcement action.

It’s also possible to take violations of the Do Not Call Registry to Small Claims Court.  Be sure to keep a good log of date, time, telephone number and name of the company that called.

4. I received an email message warning me about telemarketers calling cell phones. What should I do?

Fears of a flood of telemarketing calls to your cell phone are unwarranted according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).  The FTC has issued a statement in response to bogus email messages warning of telemarketing calls to cell phones: “The Truth about Cell Phones and the National Do Not Call Registry, www.ftc.gov/opa/2005/04/dnc.htm.

It is currently illegal for marketers using auto-dialers to call cell phone numbers. According to the FCC, since many telemarketers use auto-dialers to place their calls, the likelihood of a telemarketer calling your cell phone is reduced. Since not all calls are eliminated, it is a good idea to add your cell phone number to the National Do Not Call Registry either online at www.donotcall.gov or by calling toll-free at 1-888-382-1222 from the telephone number you wish to register.

Please note that there is not a separate Do Not Call Registry for cell phones. The current Do Not Call Registry covers both traditional (wired) and cell (wireless) phones. Telephone numbers placed on the National Do Not Call Registry remain on it permanently under the Do-Not-Call Improvement Act of 2007. Read more about it at http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2008/04/dncfyi.shtm.

5. I keep getting junk faxes. What can I do?

Until recently, the law on unsolicited faxes was simple: No one could send a fax advertisement without your prior consent.  Recently, Congress created an exception for fax advertisements sent when you have an “established business relationship,” or EBR, with the sender.  A business now has the green light to send a fax advertisement in numerous situations, such as when you include your fax number on an application, a contact information form, a membership renewal form, or an Internet posting.  An EBR doesn’t mean you have ongoing business dealings. A “prior” relationship is enough. Even a simple inquiry about a product or service signals approval to get junk faxes.

A junk fax sender must provide at least one cost-free mechanism to opt-out. This can be by toll-free number, Web site address, toll-free facsimile number, or e-mail address. Opt-out requests must be accepted 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

You can complain to the FCC about junk faxes. The agency does not resolve individual complaints, but can take action against violators. Such actions are very often based on consumer complaints. Visit the FCC’s Web site for instructions on how to file a complaint. www.fcc.gov/cgb/consumerfacts/unwantedfaxes.html

For more on the new FCC rules, see PRC Fact Sheet 5a, Junk Faxes: No Relief in Sight, www.privacyrights.org/fs/fs5a-JunkFax-061219.htm

Here's the FCC's guide on what you can do: www.fcc.gov/cgb/consumerfacts/unwantedfaxes.html 

This Web site will also give you a lot of information about junk faxes. www.junkfax.org/

6.A charity called and asked for a donation. I want to donate, but how can I be sure the charity is legitimate?

Phone solicitations can be scams. Beware if they offer to come to your residence to pick up your donation. Don't be taken in by an appeal of urgency. Legitimate charities will not send a runner to your door. This is a sure sign of fraud. Also, do not wire the donation to the charity. This too is a common fraud scheme.

Investigate the charity before giving. But beware. Crooks may use names that are similar to legitimate charities. Three useful websites for evaluating charities are:

Take time to think about their request by asking them to mail you information about the charity and how much of each dollar goes toward their cause and how much goes into overhead costs (office expenses, salaries, etc.). 

  • If you are unsure about the caller, contact the charity on your own rather than responding to those who contact you. But, do not use a search engine to find the charity's Web site. You might be sent to a similar or fake look-alike.
  • Be aware that natural disasters often are followed by fundraising or relief scams.

7. I keep getting a recorded message telling me to call a toll-free number, but I am on the Do Not Call list. What should I do?

The call may be from a debt collector. The debt may or may not be yours. Call the toll-free number to determine if the caller is a debt collector and ask whom they were calling for. Often, they have the wrong number and that will stop the calls. For procedures to resolve the situation please read our Fact Sheet 27 on Debt Collection.  www.privacyrights.org/fs/fs27-debtcoll.htm

If you are receiving debt collection calls for another person, this may be an indication that you are a victim of identity theft.  Be sure to read our Fact Sheet 17a on Identity Theft: What to Do if It Happens to You if you think that you might be a victim of identity theft.  www.privacyrights.org/fs/fs17a.htm

8. I keep receiving telemarketing calls, but they are coming from a foreign country.  What can I do?

International calls may be a sign of a scam. Law enforcement most likely will not have jurisdiction over these calls or any resulting scams. Be very wary when dealing with these callers. If the calls continue after you request that they stop, contact your phone company and ask for the Abuse Department.

9. Ever since I have installed my new phone number, I keep getting sales calls.  What can I do to make the calls stop?

The most effective and easiest way to prevent telemarketing calls is to register your home and personal phone number(s) with the National Do Not Call Registry operated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). You can sign up for the Do Not Call Registry in either of two ways:

  • The FTC's toll-free phone number is 1-888-382-1222 (TTY: 1-866-290-4236).
  • Online registration is available at the FTC's web site, www.donotcall.gov

Telemarketers covered by the Do Not Call Registry have up to 31 days from the date you register to stop calling you. Your phone number will stay on the Do Not Call Registry permanently, unless you ask for your number to be removed from the list, or until you change your phone number.

If your number is disconnected and then reconnected, perhaps due to a payment lapse, you will need to re-register. If you are able to keep your same phone number when you move to a new location, we advise you to re-register to make sure your number is not de-listed. If your phone number is changed when you move, don't forget to register the new number.  

If you signed up for the Registry through the FTC, you can verify that your phone number is on the list by going to https://www.donotcall.gov/confirm/Conf.aspx. You will also be able to renew your registration every five years.

10. I keep getting phone calls and when I answer no one is there. Why is this happening?

Random digit dialing devices or autodialers are able to determine all possible phone number combinations, even unlisted numbers, and dial them much more rapidly than any person can. Many telemarketers use "predictive dialing" technology to call consumers who are not on the National Do Not Call Registry. A computer dials many phone numbers in a short period of time. When an individual answers, the computer seeks a sales representative who is not occupied and connects the call. If all employees are handling other calls, the consumer hears dead silence. These are "abandoned calls."

Many people are frightened when they receive abandoned calls. They wonder if someone is harassing them, or if a burglar is checking to see if they are not home. In most cases, these calls are from telemarketers.

Except for emergency calls or calls made with the prior express consent of the person being called, autodialers and any artificial or prerecorded voice messages may not be used to contact numbers assigned to:

  • any emergency telephone line;
  • the telephone line of any guest or patient room at a hospital, health care facility, home for the elderly or similar establishment;
  • a paging service, wireless phone service (including both voice calls and text messages) or other commercial mobile radio service; or
  • any other service for which the person being called would be charged for the call.

You can read more about autodialers at http://www.fcc.gov/guides/unwanted-telephone-marketing-calls.

Copyright © Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. This copyrighted document may be copied and distributed for nonprofit, educational purposes only. For distribution, see our copyright and reprint guidelines. The text of this document may not be altered without express authorization of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.


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