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Stop the Robo-Calls!

In the last couple of weeks, a good part of our community was absolutely inundated by robo-calls from one particular organization:  The National Organization for Marriage.   It seemed everyone was complaining about this.

It didn’t matter if you answered the phone and listened to the recorded lecture—they kept calling.  In many cases, several times a day.  I began yelling futilely into the phone, as if there were some human lurking on the line who would hear my pleas and take pity.

This is not about politics or opinion--this is about anonymous and harrassing phone calls. During the previous elections, we were all inundated by not only robo-calls, but all kinds of calls from organizations asking you to take a “survey” about your political beliefs.  “Survey” is the new code word for “I’m about to give you a pitch for our cause."

Many of us are on the National Do Not Call Registry (donotcall.gov), which is managed by the Federal Trade Commission .  This is pretty effective in stopping telemarketers for products and “surveys” for products—but there is a huge catch:  Political organizations, charities and legitimate telephone surveys are still permitted under the rules.

Telemarketers really have to be doing a “survey” and not just using a “survey” to sell you something—and we already know they have worked around that with bogus survey questions.  For instance, a friendly young voice will call and say something like:  “Hello, Ms. Ramos, how are you today?  We’re taking a survey on community financial services and effective advertising, and this will only take a moment.  Have you seen any ads on television for Acme Financial Services?  What are your thoughts about the Acme Financial Services?  Did the ads make clear that you pay lower fees for Acme Financial Services?”     Arrrggghhh.

As for calls from charities—they are still a pain and there are lots of scam groups out there.  They should not be able to call if we want to ban them from our private phones.     And then there are the political organizations which have become the worst violators.  In the coming year, you can expect to get more and more of them.  The 2012 elections are just around the corner, after all.

What can we do about this?     In the case of the past two weeks with that incessant marriage robo-call, I first tried to contact the organization.  The phone numbers on their website only led to a recorded voicemail which would not accept messages.

Then I called my local phone provider, Verizon, to report this harrassment and asked to block the call.  But, in order to block the call, I’d have to pay  about $20 a month additional, and I would then be allowed to block about 20 numbers.

Now, what good will that do in the coming year as the robo-calls start pouring in?  We don’t know what phone numbers they will be coming from ahead of time, and there will be far more than 20 different organizations.     I decided I’m going to dump Verizon and make use of the cable company’s phone service which has better prices and includes some phone-number blocking for no additional charge.  I’ll save about $100 a month this way, and I get to keep my same phone number.  For those reasons, it seems like a no-brainer.      But that still won’t anticipate or prevent the political robo-calls and “surveys.”     So what to do?     I hate to tell you, but we have to put pressure on our politicians to allow us to block their calls—at the very least, the recorded robo-calls.

I don’t think the politicians will cooperate, no matter how much we complain or beg or insist.  After all, they exempted themselves from the law just so they could be sure to be able to call.     Perhaps if we start a campaign saying that we will NOT vote for ANYONE who uses robo-calls or calls us more than once?  That we’ll use local websites like the Daily Lewisboro—and we’ll tell everyone we know—who the violators are.  We’ll name names!  We’ll start a Shame On You list!

Anyone want to give it a try? Contact Dana at GoToDana@gmail.com or visit DanaRamos.com

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