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Telemarketing FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions About Telemarketing


How do telemarketers get my telephone number?

Technology has become more sophisticated and, as a result, your personal information is no longer as secure as it once was. Telemarketers collect information about you through a number of different methods:

  • Listed Telephone numbers - If you are listed in the phone book, then telemarketers have your number. Many companies specialize in gathering information from different phone books around the country, collecting the data and selling it to marketing companies. Your personal information can also be published in "reverse directories," phone books that list the telephone numbers of residences in a particular geographic area. These directories are often used to blanket neighborhoods with telemarketing campaigns.

  • Credit Bureaus - Whenever you apply for credit, even for something as small as household appliances, you give out personal information. Often, consumers are lured into signing up for these credit cards, especially at department stores, by the offer of interest-free financing with immediate spending power. Unfortunately, these accounts are anything but free. Many times, third-party organizations actually bear the cost of financing your purchases, just to get their hands on your personal information. They can then sell (and resell!) your name, address, phone number and spending history to credit bureaus, financial institutions and marketing organizations.

  • Donations - If you contribute to charitable organizations, your name can far outweigh your donation in value. Many times, charities hire third-party telemarketing companies to collect funds on their behalf. The telemarketers keep a percentage of whatever they collect, turning over the rest of your donation to the charity. However, the telemarketers also keep you personal information, from which they can profit exponentially as they sell and resell it to other telemarketing companies.

  • Checks - If you have your name, address and telephone number pre-printed on your checks, companies can easily collect it and store it in a database for later use.

  • Contests, Surveys, Sweepstakes - If you participate in contests, surveys, sweepstakes, drawings, free or low-rate credit offers, book and magazine subscriptions, TV offers, credit card offers or credit reports, you offer up your personal information for commercial use. By participating, you have done what's called "opting-in," meaning that you have given your name voluntarily. Many contests, promotions and giveaways are a shallow disguise for collecting your name to be sold, distributed or used in follow-up campaigns.

  • Automatic Dialers - Automatic dialers, otherwise known as "predictive dialers" or "lead generators," dial random numbers sequentially within a given area code. When the computer reaches a "live" phone number, it connects the telemarketer. This approach is also used by call centers populated with banks of sales agents, who manually dial the calls.

  • Toll Free and Pay-per-Call numbers - Whether or not you block your caller ID, the owners of toll-free telephone numbers -- 888, 877 and 866 -- can collect your telephone number though a technology called "Automatic Number Identification," or ANI. While not every company offering a toll-free number is interested in capturing your personal information, many companies do profit greatly from collecting and distributing your name, phone number and spending habits. Pay-per-call numbers -- 900 calls or other area codes starting with "9" -- fall under the same guidelines. However, with 900 numbers, you not only pay for the call, but also give out your number so it can be sold to others.


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How can I stop unwanted sales calls?

  • Invest in a call screening device - Relatively inexpensive and easy to install, these devices use a variety of methods to discourage or completely block telemarketing calls. that is right for you. These devices use a number of methods to discourage, or completely block telemarketing calls, but were all designed with a single purpose in mind - to stop unwanted calls. With the addition of an answering device, you will also be creating an second layer of insulation between you and the caller.

  • Get an unlisted phone number - Unlisted numbers cost a little more, but avoiding unsolicited and intrusive telemarketing calls is well worth the additional monthly cost.

  • Opt out - Check out Privacy Corps' State Do Not Call Lists page to see if the state in which you reside maintains an opt-out list. If they do, get your name on it, and telemarketers will be legally prohibited from calling you. You can also opt-out with the Direct Marketing Association, but we have some reservations about them charging you to register and, giving them all of your information to associate at one time, including your name, address, phone number, etc. (see "Who is exempt from Do Not Call List regulation?")

  • Educate yourself - Become a proactive consumer and carefully manage the way you distribute your personal information. NEVER respond to an unsolicited commercial fax or telemarketing call. Be aware of how much information you give out during consumer transactions, and read the privacy policies of each company or organization you deal with. Inform companies that you do not want your personal information distributed. Opt out of as many lists as you can, including those maintained by the major credit bureaus.

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Are there any laws concerning telemarketing?

YES! The two significant federal laws that govern telemarketing are:

Check the Privacy Corps resources page for a list of current and proposed laws. You may also want to check Privacy Corps' State Do Not Call Lists page to see if the state in which you reside maintains an opt-out list. If they do, get your name on it, and telemarketers will be legally prohibited from calling you.

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Are there any laws concerning junk faxes?

Yes! Unsolicited faxes are illegal as outlined in the Telephone Protection Act of 1991. NEVER respond to an unsolicited fax. You may have seen faxes that say something like, "If you have received this in error…" or "If you would like to have your name removed…" These faxes are still illegal. No amount of wording or qualifiers gives the fax broadcaster the rights to use your resources -- your time, fax paper, line time or fax machine -- for the purposes of advertising to you without your explicit permission. By doing so, they are willfully violating federal law and are subject to severe fines for each occurrence..

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How do I stop junk faxes?

The most effective way to prevent unsolicited faxes is to invest in a call screening device that works with fax machines. We offer one of the best devices designed for for this purpose: FAX FIREWALL.

NEVER respond to an unsolicited fax! Like email spammers, fax telemarketers are often faxing blindly, searching for working fax numbers they can sell to other companies. When you try to opt out using the information provided on the fax, all you do is confirm that the telemarketer has found a live fax machine, and, when calling their "800" number, your telephone number is now being revealed to the fax broadcaster to be further capitalized for sale or telemarketing calls.

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Often, the phone rings and there is no one on the line. What's going on?

Most telemarketing call centers use computerized automatic dialers, otherwise known as "predictive dialers" or "lead generators." These devices can dial hundreds, if not thousands, of calls per hour from a single center. If the computer detects a live person on the telephone, it summons the next available operator to break into the call. The delay you hear, when it sounds as if no one is there, is the time it takes for the operator to get on the line after you or your answering device has picked up the phone. Also, some companies do nothing but troll sequential lists of telephone numbers, just to document whether a "live" voice answers, then documents any successful connections along with the time, to sell to telemarketing firms or to follow up with sales calls.

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Does my state have a "Do Not Call" list?

Privacy Corps maintains a list of all states that either have, or expect to have, a "Do Not Call" list. Check out our "State Do Not Call Lists" page to see if the state in which you reside maintains an opt-out list. If they do, get your name on it, and notified telemarketers that are not exempt from the rules will be legally prohibited from calling you at home. Check our page, and if your state of residence maintains a list, by all means sign up!

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Is any legislation planned to put more restrictions on telemarketers??

Telemarketing is a huge business, projected to exceed $750 billion in 2003, so it's not likely to be legislated away completely. While the Federal Trade Commission is creating a Federal "Do Not Call" List, this list is hugely expensive, costing $16,000,000 in startup costs and millions per year to maintain. Additionally, some groups are, and will continue to be, exempt from these rules, including political campaign telemarketers and tax-exempt organizations (see "Who is exempt from Do Not Call List regulation?").

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Who is exempt from Do Not Call List regulation?

  • Any company with which you have an established business relationship to include:
    • Credit card companies;
    • Financial Institutions:
    • Insurance companies;
    • Mortgage companies;
    • Retail & Department stores;
    • Telephone companies;
    • Newspaper publishers;
    • Magazine publishers;
    • Oil companies;
    • Bill collectors;
    • etc.
  • Any company with which you have made an inquiry within 90 days.
  • Any company with which you have made an application within 90 days.
  • Any "Not-for-Profit" organization to include:
    • City, State & Federal offices;
    • Police & Fire Departments;
    • Charitable organizations;
    • Schools and school groups;
    • Club members;
    • etc.
  • Any political organization to include:
    • Anyone running for a political office;
    • Anyone representing a political candidate;
    • Anyone campaigning for a public or political cause;
    • etc.
  • Insurance companies to include;
    • Life insurance;
    • Health insurance;
    • Home insurance;
    • Car insurance;
    • etc.
  • Anyone conducting a survey.
  • Anyone making an appointment, (the latest telemarketing ploy).

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Can my business phone be placed on National or State Do Not Call Lists?

Any number listed as a business phone is fair game for telemarketers, survey takers, politcal organizations, not-for-profits, etc. Any notices to telemarketers to not call your business phone can be ignored without recourse.

What should I do when a telemarketer has me cornered?

Without a call screening device:

You will need to conform to the letter of the law concerning your dialog with the unwanted telemarketing call, to put them on legal notice that you do not wish to receive any further calls.

Here are some suggested questions to give you the ammunition you need to take action against them should they continue to pester you:

  • First qualify it as a telemarketing call: "Are you selling something?"
  • Get the operators name: "What is your full name?"
  • Get the company's phone number: "What is your phone number with area code?"
  • Get the company name: "What is the name of your company?"
  • Make sure they maintain a "Do Not Call List": "Do you keep a record of those who request that you do not call?" (If not, they are in violation of federal law)
  • If they do, ask to be placed on it: "Could you please put my number on your "Do Not Call" list?"


You should maintain a record of these conversations including date and time. If they continue to call you, they are in violation of federal law and you may be able to sue for damages and/or have them fined.

With a call screening device:

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To which federal agency would I file a complaint against a telemarketer?

The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) You can file a complaint online.


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