Home-based businesses wouldn't be viable if it weren't for a little invention called the telephone. So as you gear up to work from home, the last thing you need is telemarketers calling and clogging up those vital phone lines. Fortunately, there are now multiple ways to hang up on telemarketers. To freeze out cold calls, use a multi-layered approach.
The Federal Trade Commission launched the National Do Not Call Registry in July 2003. You can register by going to www.donotcall.gov. You can also call (888) 382-1222. Make sure you call from the number you wish to register (home or cell phone). It takes a couple months for your request to kick in, but then it lasts for 5 years. The National Do Not Call Registry does not eliminate calls from politicians (go figure!), people conducting opinion polls or companies that you already have a business relationship with. But there's a way to stop those calls too!
Many people make the mistake of shrieking "take me off your list," when a telemarketer interrupts their work day or their dinner. WRONG! That request has no legal teeth. Instead, ask to be put ON the list. The telemarketers' own do not call list. Telemarketers are required to keep and honor a list of people who do not wish to be contacted. If they call you again after you have made this request, you can sue them and collect compensation. The company could also face government fines of $10,000 or more. Keep in mind, many big companies have multiple divisions that operate as separate businesses with separate internal do not call lists. For example, if you tell the life insurance company not to call you anymore, you may still receive cold calls from the investment division. Tell each one to put you on its do not call list.
If after doing all this, you still receive obnoxious telephone come-ons, chances are the callers are crooks. Telemarketing fraud is devastating. Some people lose their life savings. The most common fraudulent phone pitches are: prizes that cost money, cheesy travel packages, untested healthcare products, illegal investments, and fake charities.
As somebody with a home-based business, you should also know that unsolicited faxes are illegal. It uses up your paper and toner! Companies that you have a business relationship with are allowed to fax you sales pitches, but total strangers are not. Unfortunately, the National Do Not Call registry does not cover faxes. You can report unsolicited faxes by completing the FCC's on-line complaint Form 1088 at: www.fcc.gov/cgb/complaints.html or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org;
KNOW THE SIGNS:
1. By law, telemarketers are not allowed to call before 8am or after 9pm. They must immediately state that it's a sales call. They cannot lie about prizes, investment returns or the price of what they're selling. If a caller violates any of these rules, you may be dealing with a fraudulent telemarketer.
2. If a telemarketer asks for your credit card number, don't give it out unless you initiated the call.
3. Sleazy solicitors often ask for your checking account number or other numbers printed on your checks. Never give those numbers out over the phone.
4. Cold callers may ask for your personal information. Don't give out medical information, your driver's license number or social security number. Don't reveal your children's names or other family details.
5. Never pay for a prize. If you've really won, you don't owe a cent. Free is free.
6. Tricky telemarketers try to get people to make hasty decisions. Don't do it. Ask the caller to send you written information.
7. Telemarketers target older people. If you're over 65, lots of hucksters could come-a-calling. Single elderly women are a con-artist's favorite "client."
DO YOUR HOMEWORK:
1. Tell telemarketers to put you on their company's do not call list.
2. Sign up for the National Do Not Call Registry.
3. Never buy anything from anybody over the phone, unless you initiated the call and you know the company's reputation.
4. Ask for written materials before responding to a telemarketer's pitch.
5. Contact the BBB and your county and state consumer protection offices to check the reputations of companies that call you.
WHERE TO COMPLAIN:
To gripe about telemarketers who break the rules or break the law, contact your state attorney general. If the telemarketer is a telecommunications company, complain to the Federal Communications Commission. For unsolicited faxes, you also want to direct your complaint to the FCC.