How Do I Stop Annoying Phone Calls?

A number of people have asked me lately:  What do I do to stop annoying phone calls?

This answer is meant to help you understand your rights and how to get the calls to stop.  In addition, an illegal phone call may result in you having a valuable cause of action against the caller for a violation of your rights and privacy (in some instances, valued at up to $1,500 per illegal call).  This answer will help you stand up for your rights.

To begin, calls fall into two categories:  Those to your cell phone, and those to your home phone.  (Calls to a business line are not discussed here.)

Generally speaking, unless you have given your consent, calls to your cell phone are illegal when they are initiated by an automatic telephone dialing system, and almost all telemarketing and similar calls are made from such systems.

Regarding calls to a residence:

  • If the call is made by a business or a charity which is nottax-exempt
    • The call may not be placed before 8 am or after 9 pm
    • The call may not be placed to a number on the national do-not-call registry
    • The call may not use a pre-recorded message for advertising, unless you have agreed to accept such calls, and
    • The caller (even if automated) must provide a means for the recipient to request being removed from the call list
  • If the call is made by a bona fide tax-exempt charitable organization, the call is exempt from many of the noted restrictions.  However, the caller must still provide you a way to be removed from their list, and the caller may still be restricted from calling your cell phone.

Beyond these limitations, callers attempting to collect debts must comply with additional rules.  A collector must treat you with dignity, honesty, and respect.  Some rules regularly violated by debt collectors include:

  • Calling you frequently
  • Calling you at odd hours
  • Calling you at work
  • Calling on your cell phone
  • Calling your relatives or neighbors
  • Threatening to have you arrested
  • Threatening that a process server is on the way
  • Threatening to take your property
  • Trying to get more of your personal information than they already have
  • Trying to get you to pay on debt you don’t quite remember or are not sure of
  • Demanding immediate payment over the phone
  • Refusing to give you complete information about who they are

Although engaging in the conduct on this list does not mean for certain that a collector has violated the law, if, when you hang up the phone, you feel scared or somewhat degraded, most likely the collector has violated your rights and acted unlawfully.

In order to deal with annoying phone calls, some people have the approach, “I’ll just ignore them.”  However, this approach is not likely to get the calls to stop.  And, if there is a reason you are receiving the calls (e.g. someone thinks you owe them money), it won’t help you resolve the issues behind the phone calls (in fact, in most cases, the underlying problems will only get worse).

To get the phone calls to stop, you need to:

  1. Answer every call!  Think of the calls as a game.  If you play well, the calls will stop, and the caller may even have to pay you for the annoyance.
  2. Take notes of EVERY call – even if every call is exactly the same.  Who is calling?  Who do they represent?  What is their address/contact information?  What number is the call coming from?  Why are they calling you?
  3. Always be pleasant and polite!  Getting irritated won’t help you.
  4. Tell the caller to stop calling you!  If the call is automated, by law, it must provide you a method to be removed from the call list.  If it does not, make sure that you take note of that fact.
  5. If the caller is a person, tell them three things:  (1) If they are calling your cell phone, tell them, “Please be advised you are calling my cell phone, and you do not have permission to call my cell phone”; (2) tell them, “Please, do not call me again,” and (3) if they are a debt collector, say “I dispute the debt.”
  6. NEVER give out any personal identifying information (Social Security number, account number…) over the telephone.

This strategy may not get the calls to stop the first time, but if you follow through, you can get most callers to stop.  Some calls, however, are from true scammers, who are not interested in following the law, leaving you with limited options.  Still, following this strategy will help you protect yourself.

For more information, please check out other articles on this site.

For a free consultation about how to best deal with your situation, please call me at 216.292.8884 or send me an email by filling out the form on the side of this page.  I can help in most situations – and I might even make you some money.

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This entry was posted on Friday, November 23rd, 2012 at 9:59 am and is filed under Q&A. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.