Before they call...

NEVER give out your phone number! Common traps for acquiring your phone number are: contest forms; credit card applications; when you return merchandise to a store. If they simply MUST have your phone number and will die without it, give them your cell phone number (if you've got one), and clearly write (or tell them to write) "Cell Phone" next to the number. (When telemarketers call a cell phone number, it's an instant violation worth $500.) If you don't have a cell phone, give them the number of a local telemarketer. (You can get this from your local yellow pages.)

During their call...

If you've already given out your phone number and you get the call (and you will get the call), document the date and time of the call, the caller's name, the supervisor's name (you'll get this by telling your caller that you have some concerns and wish to speak to his/her supervisor), and the product or service being offered.

After you get the necessary information, ask to be put on their "Do Not Call List". And always demand a copy of their "Do Not Call Policy". By law, they must make it "available upon demand" and "without cost to the consumer."

After they call...

Once you have told a company not to call you, they actually have the right (thanks to the FCC) to call you one more time. Document this next call the same way you did the first, get the names of the caller and supervisor, and again ask to be put on their "Do Not Call List". If the sales calls stop, great. If they don't, they call you again within 12 months, you've got 'em. Document the phone call; and send a certified letter to the company, informing them that they are about to be sued.

Be sure to keep your notes in a safe place. If the telemarketer fails to send you their "Do Not Call Policy", you can take them to court for $500.00. If a third party bureau calls you on behalf of a client, the client is responsible for any laws broken.

Tips for the advanced consumer...

Listen carefully to how the telemarketer introduces himself. If he says that he is calling "for xyz company" or "on behalf of xyz company," then it is a sure bet you are talking to a telemarketing service (service bureau). Get friendly with the telemarketer. I say something like this: "John, you told me you were calling on behalf of Megabank Visa. I am involved in the telemarketing industry. Are you an employee of Megabank, or are you a third party service bureau?" Most will tell you the name of the bureau. This is valuable information. If you later decide to sue, contacting the service bureau and telling them that you are going to sue their client (Megabank Visa) may result in a settlement. After all, if you were a telemarketing company, would you want your client sued because one of your minimum wage telemarketers screwed up? And don't forget the negative publicity this would generate for the client. You get the picture!!!

If you are told that it takes a month or two to get on the company's "Do Not Call List", tell the caller that if he calls again, you will take their product or service and not pay for it. Inform him that since future calls will be a violation of an act of the U.S. Congress, any contract directly resulting from an illegal act is not enforceable. The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) offers no "grace period."

If they call again, I suspect that once they find out they screwed up, they will just drop the matter. You can remind them that if they want their money, they will have to go to court and admit under oath that they called you after you told them not to call. By admitting under oath that they broke the law, they expose themselves to possible action by the FCC or local authorities. Most companies will simply drop the matter. Enjoy the free stuff.

To sum up...

NEVER JUST HANG UP. Take as much of the telemarketer's time as you can. If we all keep telemarketers on the phone for one minute or longer, we can bring the industry to a halt. Hey, they waste our time, why not waste theirs! Think about it. If a telemarketer sells 5% of the people he calls, and each caller keeps him on for 2 minutes, that means that in order to sell 5 of his products he has to spend 200 minutes on the phone. And if 10% of the people demand copies of the telemarketer's "Do Not Call Policy" doesn't take a rocket scientist to see the results.

NEVER...NEVER...NEVER buy from a telemarketer!

If we all take these simple measures, we can end telemarketing. We need to stop this infection that has entered the public switched telephone network. WE CAN DO IT!

Read 'em your rights!!!
Here is a sample script to use:

May I have your company's name, address and telephone number? If you are calling on behalf of a client, may I have the name, address and telephone number of your company, as well as the name, address and telephone number of the company that you are calling on behalf of?

Put me on your "Do Not Call List". You are hereby ordered to share my "Do Not Call Request" with your affiliates, associates, and related entities. If you are a third-party service bureau (telemarketing company), put me on your company's "Do Not Call List" as well as your client's "Do Not Call List".

Send me a copy of your "Do Not Call Policy". If you are a third party telemarketing service bureau, send me your company's "Do Not Call Policy" as well as your client's "Do Not Call Policy".

If you call me again, I will use your product or service and not pay for it. My denial of payment will be based on the fact that your future calls are a violation of an act of Congress, and any contract that is entered into as a direct result of an illegal act is unenforceable.

Do you understand what I have just told you?
Will you comply with my requests?