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MailTribune.com
  • Just hang up

    Telephone solicitors call because it works; if no one bit, they'd have to quit
  • "Ann, with credit services" is a busy woman.
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  • "Ann, with credit services" is a busy woman.
    According to The Associated Press, she calls a gentleman in Shawnee, Kan., nearly every day, offering to lower his credit-card interest rates. She must work long hours, because she calls us, too, in the Pacific time zone, and sometimes on weekends.
    Of course, it's not really "Ann." It's a recording of "Ann's" voice — a robocall — designed to get us to respond. We can practically recite the script from memory. "There is no problem with your account at this time."
    Boy, that's a relief. Of course, "Ann" would have no way of knowing even if there were, because she's not calling from one of our creditors. No, she's trying to help us save money by lowering the interest rate we currently pay.
    "Press 1 now to speak to a representative."
    Federal authorities advise against pressing anything. Just hang up. As with spam email solicitations, responding in any way, even supposedly to "opt out" of further contacts, only alerts the people on the sending end that they have reached a living, breathing prospect.
    Telephone solicitations became such a problem in almost 10 years ago that in 2003 the Federal Trade Commission created the do-not-call list where consumers could register their phone numbers. Solicitors are supposed to check the list regularly and program their equipment not to call those numbers.
    The number of companies complying with that requirement has dropped nearly in half in the past five years, while complaints have soared.
    Despite that, the associate director of the FTC's marketing practices division told the AP that the do-not-call list is "absolutely working."
    We beg to differ.
    If the system were working, we wouldn't be getting unwanted calls. And if the FTC were doing its job, robocalls from "Ann" and her ilk — which are illegal regardless of whether the recipient's number is on the do-not-call list — would be rare.
    Of course, it's not easy to track down violators. Modern technology allows telemarketers to change numbers frequently and fool caller ID systems, making them hard to track.
    Still, consumers are fighting back. The do-not-call list wasn't created in the first place until the public demanded it and consumer advocates pushed for it. The same thing is happening with robocalls, and the FTC is looking for ways to step up enforcement.
    In the meantime, keep one fact in mind.
    Telemarketers do what they do for only one reason: It works. If no one responded, they would make no money and have to find another line of work.
    So, take the FTC's advice. Just hang up. And file a complaint at www.ftc.gov, or call 888-382-1222.
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