When I moved back to San Diego last summer, I
thought I scored a great phone number. The last
four digits were 5566, making it catchy and
memorable. Unfortunately, I soon learned that
telemarketers and fax machines had memorized it
already, thanks to whomever used the phone number
before me. The phone would often ring (repeatedly)
in the middle of the night, the beeping of a fax
machine greeting me when I picked up. More
irritating, I got a heavy volume of telemarketing
calls most evenings.
Finally losing my patience, I combed the
Internet in search of telemarketing defenses, and
came across a wealth of information on the
Web site. Though new legislation later this
year will institute a national "Do-Not-Call"
database, there are already some laws on the books
that protect us from unwanted telemarketing calls.
If telemarketers violate these laws, they are
liable for $500 or more.
The first defense is to interrupt the
telemarketer as soon as he or she starts talking,
and ask/demand that they place you on their
"Do-Not-Call" list. If you simply hang up on them,
they have every right to keep calling you. If you
take just a moment to make that request, they
cannot call you back without violating the law.
Eventually, the number of calls will dwindle as you
get placed on more and more "Do-Not-Call" lists.
Additionally, you can request a written copy of
their "Do-Not-Call" policy, which they are required
to send. Again, failure to do so is a violation of
Armed with this information, I began turning the
tables on telemarketers when they called. I would
immediately stop them and ask for their name, their
company's name, the name of the business they were
calling on behalf of, their phone number and
mailing address (all of which they are required by
law to provide). I also requested placement on
their "Do-Not-Call" list and asked for a copy of
their "Do-Not-Call" policy. By keeping a log of all
of these calls, I was ready to nail them if they
didn't comply with the law. And all it took was a
few minutes per call, the same time I would lose if
I actually listened to their sales pitch.
Sure enough, some of them failed to send me the
"Do-Not-Call" policy, so I utilized my newfound
legal writing skills and drafted a demand letter,
informing them that they had violated the law and
owed me $500. Craftily wording the letter as an
offer to settle for a lesser amount, I hoped that
they might just pay me off rather than risk me
taking them to small claims court (a waste of time
and energy that I wouldn't bother undertaking). I
sent out the letters via certified mail, fully
expecting to be ignored.
Imagine my surprise and delight yesterday, when
I found a check for $150 in my mailbox! Not only
did I feel like I won the lottery, I also felt a
sense of victory. I had struck back against the
Evil Telemarketing Horde! Now I hope they keep
If you want a copy of my
demand letter to use in your own battle against
telemarketers, just ask.
Development note: I've
noticed that this site doesn't look like it should
in Netscape Navigator. Rather than waste time
jury-rigging it to look right in a
soon-to-be-obsolete browser, I'll just add the
cliché "This site best viewed with Internet
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