By: Christina J. Johns

According to an article published by the Octane Media, if the telephone rings while you are watching your favorite TV show, taking a bath, changing a diaper, eating dinner, or leaving the house, late for an engagement there's a fifty percent change it's a telemarketer.

It's a joke, but it can't be far from the truth. After receiving a number of annoying telephone phone calls (usually around dinner time) from people either trying to sell us something or get us to give them something, namely money, I did some research.

My usual approach with these people had been to cut them off as soon as I recognized what's going on. "Thank you very much for calling," I would say politely, but we're not interested." Now, you would think with such an approach, I would get politeness in return. Rarely.

Most of the time the huckster on the other end of the telephone was curt, angry, and one man who identified himself as representing the Benevolent Order of Police, had the nerve to hang up in my face.

I finally told my husband that when the next one phoned, I was going to demand to know his home telephone number. And, then I was going to threaten to ring him up tomorrow night around dinnertime and try to sell him one of my books.

But, with a little bit of researching on the Internet and a conversation with the very helpful personnel at the phone company, I found a better solution.

Instead of hanging up, or saying you're not interested, a better (if more time consuming) strategy is to ask the caller to put you on their "do-not-call" list, and to mail you a written confirmation that they have done so. You ask (and the telemarketer must provide) the name of the company, an address (not a post office box), a telephone number, and the name of the caller. If you request it, he must also provide you with a copy of the company's do-not-list policy, and mail you the confirmation of his adding you to his do-not-call list. If he calls you after this, he is breaking the law and you are entitled to sue.

These guys are out to make money, fast, not fool around and waste time mailing out do-not-call policies or confirmations. Scott Bidstrup, writing on the Internet about the Telephone Consumers Protection Act of 1991, says that if even ten percent of victims of telemarketers demanded these types of confirmations, telemarketing would become far too expensive to be worthwhile.

Bidstrup and the telephone company also offer these suggestions. Never give any business your telephone number unless absolutely necessary, and then have them write that it should be unpublished. Never, ever buy anything from a telemarketer or even sound interested. These guys sell your name and telephone number over and over and over to other telemarketers. But, they also trade their "do-not-call" lists, so once you demand to be put on one, chances are that other marketers will be deterred from phoning as well.

According to the telephone company, there is an office at the Florida Department of Agriculture where you can register your name on a do-not-call list, but this only covers telemarketers in Florida, not a big help since most of the calls come from out of state.

Some publications tell you to put your name on a list with the Direct Marketing Association's Telephone Preference List, but Bidstrup says he has received reports that this list is being sold to companies which send out junk mail. Bidstrup argues that it's sole reason for existence is to "convince regulators that the industry is trying to cut down on the nuisance factor."

I know it sounds like a lot of bother to ask for policies and confirmations, but remember, as Bidstrup says if only 10% of us would do this, we could stop a lot of these hucksters phoning. Come on, let's do some fighting back.

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