Annoying calls come in several types. Telemarketers are easier to stop these days, though some of these types of calls still cannot be blocked. Collection agencies do have to follow certain rules, and can get into trouble if they don’t. Harassing and obscene calls are illegal, and the phone company and the police will sometimes work together to stop them. Unwanted calls from people you know can be a delicate problem, but one that is usually solvable.
Each bothersome call can generally be dealt with successfully, in a way that leaves your mind tranquil and your dinner hour undisturbed. Sales Calls Telemarketers have not been stopped, but have been slowed down considerably by the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. Now there is a National Do Not Call Registry, at 1-888-382-1222. This is a free call. Simply call this number and register to make it illegal for most telemarketers to call you. It’s unnecessary to register a cell phone or fax, because it is already illegal to solicit business at these numbers. If for some reason you do not want to be on the national list, you can still ask each unwanted caller to put you on their company’s do not call list. There are still circumstances under which you can be bothered.
Telemarketers can legally call business phones. Charities can also call, as well as non-profit organizations like the Sierra Club. Political calls are still legal too. If you have done business with a company in the last 18 months, they can call you until you ask them to stop. If a sales caller flouts the law to bother you, you can make a complaint online, and the caller may be liable for legal or civil penalties. Go to the FTC website to file your complaint. It’s a simple process, but try to have specific details like who called, and when, handy. Callcatalog.com is another resource for bothersome calls of all kinds. Collections One way to stop collections calls is to pay what you owe. That’s not always possible though, and the bill is not always just. Therefore, debtors have the right to make collectors prove that they are owed the money. The first letter debt collectors send should contain a Debt Validation Notice, or one should arrive soon after the first letter. If they can’t prove a debt is valid, collectors can’t call any more.
A debtor has 30 days to send a letter disputing all or part of the debt and requesting the name of the original creditor. Once it is received, a collection agency must send proof it has the right to collect the debt. Just proof that a debtor owes someone is not enough. If the agency can’t prove that it is entitled to the money, it must stop the calls. A collector cannot call before 8 AM or after 9 PM local time. He or she also cannot call any time the debtor has said is inconvenient. The debtor must give the collector a specific time he or she can call though. Collectors also can’t call someone in bankruptcy. Collectors can call at work if they don’t know that the company doesn’t allow personal calls. Once they know they must stop.
Collectors cannot call a business, friends, neighbors, or relatives once they know your personal number. Debtors can hang up on a collector, but he cannot call back repeatedly. That would be harassment. Debtors can also send a Cease and Desist letter, telling collectors not to make contact any more, but that may not always be a good idea. If a debtor sends a Cease and Desist letter, the collector is allowed to contact him or her one more time. This is to inform the debtor what the collector intends to do. The agency may say that it will cease all attempts to collect the debt. It may say that it might take further action. However, it may say that it will take further action. What action? Collectors may well take a debtor to court. It depends how much is owed, and how likely the collectors think they are to get their money. Harassing phone calls It is illegal to make phone calls designed to threaten or intimidate you, even if the caller says nothing. Therefore, the police and Phone Company are likely to help with a persistent or frightening caller. If this is the first time a caller has bothered you, the best policy is to silently hang up the phone. If the caller doesn’t know you, he or she is only trying to get a reaction, and will bother someone else if there isn’t one from you. To avoid giving random callers ammunition, never give out any information over the phone to someone you do not know.
Do not give a caller your phone number, and do not put it on your answering machine. Put as little information as you can in the phone book, or have an unlisted number. If a persistent obnoxious caller is the problem, or if a caller directly threatens physical harm, the phone company can help. They can trace calls, and find out who is bothering you. A technology called Call Trace can let you immediately trace the phone number of the person who just called you. Of course, this doesn’t help if he or she is using a pay phone or a disposable cell. Call Trace only works on local calls. A Trap on your phone allows the phone company to determine the phone number of the person who is harassing you. To use it, you must keep a log of all your calls. Many phones can be programmed to send calls from certain numbers to a message that states that you will not take the call. This technique will work with prank callers, but it may anger stalkers.
Some unwanted calls are from a person who is stalking you in other ways as well. In situations like this, it’s a good idea to get a new phone number, but also keep the old one. Let your harassing calls go to the machine, so that you have a record of the caller’s threats or harassment. This provides the caller with an outlet, and you with evidence. Guard your new phone number carefully. Many phone companies offer Privacy Manager. This service requires callers to identify themselves before their call goes through, and then allows the call recipient to decide whether to take the call, route it to an answering machine, or reject it. Friends and acquaintances Some calls are not harassing; they are simply unwanted at a particular time. The answering machine helps solve problems like these. Callers may not know that they are calling at the dinner hour, or when you are working. Often people who work in an office do not realize that people who work at home have set schedules and routines. Be nice, of course, but be direct.
A phone service called Priority Ringing can assign different bells to different callers, so you can know who is calling before you get up to answer the phone. It’s easy to make unwanted calls without knowing it. That’s why everyone should be careful when they call, whom they call, and how they call. For people who won’t play by the rules, answering machines, phone company services, and, if necessary, the authorities, can help.