While telemarketing can be a legitimate sales and fundraising method, phony solicitors steal billions of dollars from consumers each year. To defend against frauds, Better Business Bureau reminds consumers of telemarketing rules:
Consumer Protections: The Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA), Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) and Telemarketing and Consumer Fraud Abuse Prevention Act prohibit abusive tactics and misrepresentations. Phone solicitors are required to:
- Respect call times; they may not contact residences before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
- Disclose phone numbers on Caller IDs. The phone number should be connected to the company name, and accept return calls during regular business hours.
- Willingly disclose their name, company name, and telephone number or address.
- Identify the nature of the sales call before making a pitch. It is illegal to distort or conceal facts, conditions or costs of purchases.
- Abide by do-not-call requests; they may not continue calling when asked to stop.
- Cease prerecorded commercial telemarketing calls or "robocalls" to consumers.
Phone Numbers: Telemarketers find phone numbers through: public directories; mailing lists; businesses-to-business sharing; direct mail, online entry forms and sweepstakes applications. BBB offers tips on protecting phone numbers:
- Be careful when responding to marketing campaigns. If concerned, consider blocking numbers before calling.
National Do Not Call Registry: The National Do Not Call Registry helps reduce telemarketing calls; register for free at www.donotcall.gov or call 1-888-382-1222.
- Home and cell phone numbers can be registered; business numbers can't.
- There is no deadline to register. Phone numbers stay on the list until removed, reassigned or discontinued; registration does not expire. Solicitors covered by the registry must stop calling 31 days after the register date.
- Calls are not covered under the registry when: there is an established business relationship; there is prior written permission; they are not commercial or do not include unsolicited advertisements; made by or on behalf of political entities, certain utility providers or tax-exempt non-profit organizations.
Complaints: If unwanted or harassing telemarketing calls continue—despite registration on the Do Not Call Registry—write down: the date and time of the call; the phone number that appears on the caller ID screen; and request details and contact information from the caller. File complaints with the:
Some states have additional resources and protections: Check with the Alaska State Department of Law Consumer Protection Unit, Oregon Department of Justice or Washington State Attorney General.
Unknown Callers: Don't give financial data or Social Security numbers to telemarketers. Research businesses at www.bbb.org before purchasing. For more facts, view the FTC's Straight Talk About Telemarketing, Telemarketing and Telephone Services and the FCC's Unwanted Telephone Marketing Calls.