LOS ANGELES—Are you sick and tired of having meals or your favorite TV show interrupted by telemarketers? Do they even call your unlisted number? Have you discovered that a mechanical zapper doesn't stop them?
The Federal Trade Commission has finally come to the rescue by enacting regulations to curb telemarketer abuses. You may have heard that most telemarketers cannot call your telephone number if it is in the National Do Not Call Registry. That's true—more or less.
If you haven't already, you can sign up for the National Do Not Call Registry online ftc.gov/donotcall or at the toll-free number 888-382-1222. The toll free number must be called from the phone you are registering.
The Federal Trade Commission, the Federal Communications Commission, and the states will begin enforcing the National Do Not Call Registry on October 1, 2003. Hopefully, consumers who put their numbers on the registry by August 31, 2003, will notice a downturn in the number of telemarketing calls they get. Placing your number on the National Do Not Call Registry will stop most, but not all, telemarketing calls.
Your privacy still isn't entirely assured, since inevitably there will be companies willing to risk the hefty fine. You will, however, have an easy online way to report abusers, and you can still take them to small claims court if you wish. The consumer's right to sue under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act has been preserved.
As of now—expect this to change—some businesses are exempt from having to use the registry, these include: insurers, political campaigns, charities, legitimate pollsters and companies with which you already have a business relationship. These can call you for up to 18 months after your last purchase, or three months after you make an inquiry or submit an application. However, a simply "please don't call me again", should stop them cold.
Even if you have not signed up for the registry, if you have caller ID you will be able to see who is calling. The rules that were created with the do-not-call registry also created a ban on blocked IDs. Telemarketers will be required to transmit their phone numbers and their names to your Caller ID, and will be required to tell you up front who they are and why they're calling—no more "courtesy calls" and false "surveys.” Also forbidden will be the dead silence that happens when you pick up the phone when your number had been auto-dialed and all the telemarketers are busy annoying other victims. Under the new rules, either someone will be on the line when you pick up the phone, or you will hear a recorded message saying who is calling.
If you think you've been defrauded by a telemarketer, or want to find out more ways to protect against this happening, ftc.gov/telemarketing is an excellent place to start.
Another annoyance is Spam email. While regulating this has become a huge problem, there are ways to thin out the deluge. Your best tool is knowing where the Spam originated and reporting it to the originating ISP or mail server. To do this, you need to look at the headers of the offending post.
Highlight the post you need headers for, then right click. A window will open with two tabs. The "General" tab will show the basics of the email - title, sent by, type, location, priority, and when sent and received.
The "Details" tab, shows the entire header string. This is what you'll need to send to the originating ISP's abuse department. The example below is the header string from an email sent to me recently (with a few changes so as not to identify the sender or my other address):
Received: from [188.8.131.52] (HELO MyFriend)
by remt24.cluster1.HerISP.com (CommuniGate Pro SMTP 4.0.6)
with SMTP id "MyFriend" MyFriend@HerISP.com> From: "MyFriend"
To: "ME" ME@MyISP.com>,
Subject: Example for current Article
Date: Thu, 14 Aug 2003 10:38:36 -0700
X-Priority: 3 (Normal)
X-Mailer: Microsoft Outlook IMO, Build 9.0.2416 (9.0.2911.0)
X-MimeOLE: Produced By Microsoft MimeOLE V6.00.2727.1300
This string shows that "MyFriend" sent the email from her ISP, ("HerISP.com). If the email had been a Spam or threat, I would copy the entire string, and paste it on the top of the email that I would then forward to abuse@HerISP.com. A Usenet Spam post would be handled the same way. Many ISPs have a line in the string "X-Complaints-To: abuse@HerISP.com", which makes reporting even easier.
We'll probably never stop all intrusions into our privacy, but we can cut the annoyances to a minimum—and that's a step in the right direction.