While more than 150 million numbers have been added to the National Do Not Call Registry, the Better Business Bureau continues to get calls from people who aren't aware of this resource.
The registry began in 2003 to give consumers a choice on telemarketing calls. It's managed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). If you decide to register your number, telemarketers covered by the registry have 31 days to comply and stop calling you. If they continue to call you, they can be fined thousands of dollars.
At first, numbers were to be re-registered every five years. That was changed in 2008. A number will only be removed if it's disconnected or reassigned, or the consumer opts to remove it.
Calls from some organizations are exempt, including:
Charities, although you can ask a third-party telemarketer to stop calling you on a charity's behalf.
Telephone surveyors, if the call is really for the sole purpose of conducting a survey. Unfortunately, this is a common area of abuse. If callers shift from taking a survey to selling, they're violating the registry's rules.
Companies with whom you have an established business relationship, which is defined in several ways. They include companies with whom you've had an actual relationship within the past 18 months; or companies you've requested information from, or applied to, in the past three months. You can, however, ask them to stop calling you.
Here are other important provisions of the registry:
The FTC does not allow private companies or other such third parties to register numbers. Offers to do so -- particularly for a fee -- are almost certainly a scam.
The registry is only for personal phone numbers. Business-to-business calls and faxes are not covered.
If you want to receive some telemarketing calls, you can give the companies written permission to call you even though your number is on the registry.
Even if you don't add your number to the registry, you can prohibit individual telemarketers from calling by asking them to put you on their do-not-call list.
To register a number, call 1-888-382-1222 or visit donotcall.gov. The website also has information on registering multiple numbers, deleting a number, and filing complaints.
You can register cell phone numbers on the same Do Not Call Registry. Telemarketers, however, generally use automated dialers to place their calls, and other laws prohibit using them to make calls to cell phones anyway.
If your number is on the registry and you get an unwanted call from a non-exempt organization, that's a red flag of a possible scam.
Randy Hutchinson is the President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of the Mid-South, and he can be reached at email@example.com.
Reprinted with permission by The Commercial Appeal.