Stop Calling Me! How to Avoid Telemarketers

By Nora Dunn on 27 December 2007 24 comments
Photo: Philipp Daun

The world of telemarketing has evolved from the tradition of sitting down to dinner and being disturbed by a telemarketer wanting "just a few minutes of your time" for a survey, or to ask you to donate to their cause, or to sell you something you probably don't need.
These days, you often aren't even being called by a human being; a computer calls. You say "hello", and hear dead air. Against your better judgement, you say "hello" again, and hear that ominous click. Then if you're lucky you will hear a live person's voice as the computer that called you clicks over to the next available operator. But sometimes, as if to add insult to injury, you will be informed by an electronic voice that "abc" company is trying to reach you and that an operator will be with you shortly. Cue in the elevator music.
Meanwhile, dinner is getting cold.

You don't have to succumb to this invasion any longer.
A single toll-free call or visit to the Federal Trade Commission website can remove you from all professional telemarketing companies' lists nationwide. Visit them here or call them at 1-888-382-1222.
Every 31 days, telemarketers must update their Do Not Call lists from the national registry, so within a month the dinnertime disturbances will subside. Your name will stay on the list for five years, at which time if you notice an influx of calls you can renew your listing.
For more information, check out FTC's website.

You're not out of the woods yet though! You might still be contacted by research surveys, charities, political parties, long distance phone companies, airlines, insurance companies, or companies with whom you have had recent dealings.
However if you receive said calls and tell the company that they are not to call again, they must honour your request.

And it goes without saying that any company calling claiming you have won something or asking for credit card information for charitable donations are to be treated extremely sceptically. A general rule of thumb is to ask for their contact information and call them back if you think they are legitimate and you are interested in doing business. If they are unwilling to cooperate then you should run for the hills.
In the meantime, you can contact the Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance to see if companies claiming to be national charities are scams. For local organizations, contact your state consumer protection office and ask if the charity is registered.
Scam charities can be reported to the Federal Trade Commission's Consumer Response Center, with complaint forms available here.

Let peaceful quiet dinnertimes all over the world be reinstated and celebrated! Stop the marketers in their tracks! We live in a world where we are being constantly bombarded with sales pitches - on television, radio, movies, newspapers, billboards, heck - even public washroom stall doors…let's keep the home a sacred haven from such invasions.

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Guest's picture
Wesa could go cell phone only.

Guest's picture

If you don't answer the phone you will never know what is out there that might help you to better your life.

Guest's picture

Went the cell phone route but still get calls - on the do not call list with the cell phone - have reported some companies and the ftc did nothing. There's also a law in there that says that even if you did business with a company (or filled out a form or had your phone number snagged from the internet) you can tell them to stop and if they continue to call you can report them and have them fined ... but again the ftc doesn't seem to care about that either.

I just don't answer my phone unless I recognize the number (and even then sometimes I don't answer if I'm busy.)

Greg Go's picture
Greg Go

Just registered my landline with the do not call list. That was pretty easy. Thanks for the link, Nora!

If I do get a call from a telemarketer, I just hang up on them. Not a word wasted. As soon as I hear the computer voice or the monotone of a bored live person....

Click. Buh-bye.

Guest's picture

I registered my number with the Do Not Call list the day it was announced, and the number of telemarketing calls I receive has steadily increased over the past number of years. My suspicion is that the list is simply used as another call list.

There are too many exceptions in the law. In particular, the allowance for companies with which you have recently done business really does defeat the entire spirit of the law. For example, if you have a credit card through a large bank, any of its subsidiaries and business partners can call you with "special offers". Most of my calls are generated through this chain of bank partners.

Guest's picture

I like to put them on hold just to see how long they stay there. It wastes their time so they make less contacts and less money. It also wastes their time so someone else isn't bothered. Of course if you're on a cell minute-plan, this strategy isn't recommended :)

Guest's picture

I keep getting calls from an "on-line pharmacy". The callers all sound like they're in India and not subject to US law.

Rather than hang up on them, I set the phone down and leave the connection open all day. They can't use their phone until I hang up. I hope they pay long distance charges all day long.

Guest's picture

I am never rude to the actual callers, as it is a crappy job with fairly bad pay that nobody takes unless they really need to (I know, been there, done that). But, I never talk to them in the first place because I let the machine pick up any call I don't recognize on Caller ID, and then I intercept the machine if it turns out to be a friend or someone else I want to talk to. Essentially, there is no way for a person to talk to me if I don't want to talk to them.

If you don't want to do that, the long boring bank and credit card agreements have the phone numbers listed that you need to call if you want to be excluded from their lists to their partners that call with "special offers".

Guest's picture

I heard this trick years ago and it cracked me up! When the telemarketer calls, whisper into the phone "I can't talk right now, the cops are here."

Guest's picture
Brad Rach

I think one thing to remember is to avoid getting angry if a telemarketer does get through to you. Always remember that they are still people too, and likely enough have this job because it is the only one available to them. I work at a call center to help put myself through law school (and many others or using it to get through school.)
And trust me, not matter what 'clever' idea you think you have to deal with telemarketers, we've seen it before. It isn't clever and will likely encourage us to call you at an even more inopportune time :)

Guest's picture

Good blog, Nora! Your introduction is great. I always enjoy reading your blogs.

Guest's picture

i try to be polite also....being in a call center sure changed my perspective on irritating callers.

i wish i can get another job.

Kiersten Kotaka's picture

Telemarketers only seem to call when my baby is sleeping. That REALLY PISSES ME OFF. If only they new how hard it was to get her to sleep. Anyways, I heard on NPR that if you press pound it messes up their system. When they call and no one says anything it is so that they know when you answer the phone, so the real telemarketer can call. Good post. 

Nora Dunn's picture
Nora Dunn

Thanks for the comments, folks!

I do agree that being impolite to telemarketers is like shooting the messenger, and it's a pretty crappy job so I do my best to be courteous.

I'm sorry to hear that the Do Not Call list isn't as effective as it should be, and a teensy part of me did suspect that it might be yet another list.

And when I say hello and hear the dead space, I've now learned not to say hello again. Instead I say goodbye!  

Guest's picture

I just hang up on them...

Guest's picture
The Ultimate Gadget



Guest's picture

Tell them to f##k off then hang up.

Guest's picture

As a college student who works doing university fundraising, I will tell you one thing - it's not a wise idea to piss them off. They have all of your information and know everything about you - and you know nothing about them.

Also, keep in mind that the DNC List doesn't cover Universities, Charities, Political Campaigns and Bill Collectors. Also be aware that the person is not calling you - they're on a computer, which has no emotions or doesn't care at all.

Guest's picture

The easiest way to avoid telemarketer calls is to never give your cell phone number to any business. Do not sign up for the do not call list. Do not enter any contests. Do not enter those text this number to win contests.

If I absolutely need to give my number to a business, I use my parents phone number. They'll always relay any messages to me. That means they get all the telemarketing calls but they use an answering machine and never answer the phone anyway. If you don't have that luxury then sign up for a skypein number. It costs a few dollars a month.

Guest's picture

Has anyone heard anything about this? I can find nothing, but I've heard that if you are called by a computerized marketing system, and you press pound and 2 (#2), their system takes you off their list. I tried it on one spammer, and I actually got a message claiming I'd been removed from their database.

Guest's picture

Blow a Whistle when they call.....I guarantee they will not call you again.

I keep a whistle next to the phone. When I see on the caller ID a number I don't know. I pick up the whistle, then answer the phone. If you get a recorded message that says click a number, click it and if you get a live person. BLOW THE WHISTLE.... And when the recording says call a number, I call it and BLOW THE WHISTLE when I get a liver person.....

Guest's picture

I agree with the one guest that my calls have increased since signing with the do not call registry. I just re-registered my numbers. As far as not being rude to them, the hell with that. I cant beleive how rude and cruel some of them are to me. I get harrased "Why wont you give money?" My mom got a call about my sister she told them she was dead, they said "No shes not I jsut talked to her last week" I have them yell at me and tell me and say foul things, sorry but I will be rude. I have my own buisness and I dont call people selling my services. This should outlawed period! I pay good money for phone bill each month and a lot in taxes and this is unfair to me and everyone else. I think we need to petition for a new law agasint these people and orginazations. I even had a caller ask for the youngest member of the household Im like are you nuts? They said it was a surevey regarding kids and gaming I couldnt beleive it. NO! I had one person call me fould names and told me I was bitch cause I wouldnt listen to their speil. I get sometimes 10 calls a day from unknown and unwanted callers. This really has to stop! I tell to put me on the do not call list, it doenst matter cause tomorrow I get more calls from others so it never ends. I mean what controll do I really have as a person with a phone. I think these jobs should be outlawed period!

Guest's picture

I don´t think these lists work at all... neither here, nor in other countries. I always look up the number that´s calling first on the Internet, either in Google, or in dedicated websites, where you can read what other people have written about the number or even leave your own comment. There are several websites of this kind, I use , where you can also see where the calls originates.

It makes much more sense for me to keep yourself and the others informed and not to rely on "no-calling lists", call blockers, etc.

My 2 cents,

Guest's picture

I agree with the evolution of telemarketing and I think public awareness is key in exposing fraudulent phone solicitation. I always report telemarketing calls!