Lifestyles
Expert: Consumers need to know steps for addressing unwanted calls, texts
By Paul Schattenberg, Texas A&M
Sep 20, 2017
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COLLEGE STATION – People who are annoyed by robocalls coming to their landline and unwanted calls or texts to their mobile phone should know the steps to stop them, said a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service specialist.

“If the number of unwanted or unknown calls you receive on your landline — provided you still have one — or your cell phone has been excessive and you’re tired of the disruption, the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission offer some excellent consumer guidelines to address them,” said Nancy Granovsky, AgriLife Extension family economics specialist at College Station.

According to the Federal Communications Commission, robocalls and telemarketing calls are among their top consumer complaints. Per commission rules, anyone making a telephone solicitation call must provide their name, the name of the person or entity on whose behalf they are calling, and the phone number and address where that person or entity can be contacted.

The FCC also prohibits phone solicitation calls to homes before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m. In addition, telemarketers are required to comply immediately with any do-not-call requests made by the consumer during the call. FCC rules limit many types of robocalls, but some are permissible with prior consent. The rules also differ in relation to calls made to landlines as opposed to cellular phones.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, the law allows political calls, calls from charitable organizations, informational calls, calls about debts owed and phone surveys, as well as calls from companies with which the consumer has done business or has given permission to call. But if it’s an unwanted sales call or robocall with a recorded message about a product, service or winning something, the FTC tells consumers there’s a good chance it’s a scam.

“Handling robocalls may provide a ‘teachable moment’ for family members who have their own cell phones and numbers too,” Granovsky said. “Convene a family meeting and share the steps to take. For younger or older family members, you may need to be the one to provide direct help.”

Whether telemarketing calls or calls for informational purposes, any non-emergency robocall requires the consumer give permission for the call to be made to a wireless number, she said.

“Consumers can revoke permission to be called or texted and the caller must allow them to do that in a reasonable way,” she explained. “And consent to be called or sent texts is forbidden as a condition of a sale or other commercial transaction.”

Granovsky said wireless and landline home phones are protected against telemarketing robocalls made without prior consent, but emergency or urgent calls or text alerts “for the public good,” such as those related to health, fraud or missing persons, are allowed without prior consent.

“And although it’s probably not a good idea to ignore such alerts, consumers still have the right to stop even these calls or texts if they choose to do so,” she said.

The Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission both have rules about unsolicited robocalls and texts to landlines and mobile phones. Both organizations also provide consumers with tips on what they can do to make them stop (Texas A&M AgriLife Communications photo by Paul Schattenberg)

To prevent unwanted calls Granovsky said the FCC and FTC provide some advice, which includes:

— Registering on the Do Not Call registry at

http://www.donotcall.gov.

— Contacting the phone company to see if they offer robocall-blocking technology. If they do, provide them with the numbers of those unwanted callers.

— If the phone company does not offer robocall-blocking technology, consider buying a commercially available blocking device.

— Telling unwanted callers not to call and writing down their number and when the request was made to not call again. If the calls continue, contact the FCC and make a complaint.

— For unwanted calls on wireless phones, look into blocking apps offered through the mobile app store or marketplace.

Granovsky said sometimes people will continue to receive unwanted calls even after they have contacted the Do Not Call Registry or have requested their phone provider block the number.

“If these calls persist, just hang up and report the number to the Federal Trade Commission,” she said. “If you punch buttons or try to ask for a person you can tell to take you off their list, this may just lead to further unwanted calls and annoyance.”

To contact the FTC and report a complaint, call 1-888-382-1222 or go to http://complaints.donotcall.gov.

“If you get a suspicious text message on your cell from an unrecognized number, whatever you do, do not text back or click on any embedded link,” she said. “Report it to your phone provider and to the FTC at 1-888-82-1222 or http://ftc.gov/complaint.

For more information, go to: http://bit.ly/2f4qatk or http://bit.ly/1U921W8