Telemarketers Be Gone

VodkaGuy has provided a guide for online advertisers, which reminded me of my recent efforts to protect my own privacy from those who would attempt to harass, annoy, and cudgle me into partaking of their products.
First, telemarketers. I am convinced that my primary mistake was to actually donate to my local police officer’s association. Bless the cops hearts, really, but whoever runs their charity should be locked up: they sold my name and number to everybody.
So what to do? Well, Pacific Bell is offering a promotion currently to its “best customers” — hint, I’ll bet you’re one of them too — to try out their Privacy Manager service for three months for free. (Other telcos have similar services). It combines Caller ID with a screening function: anybody who blocks their CallerID is presented with the voicemail equivalent of a big burly guy who says “Identify yourself, or You Shall Not Pass!” Folks can either unblock their CallerID, record their name, or go away. And all this happens before the phone even rings.
I then get to hear the name recorded, if that was their choice, and can either accept the call, hit “2” to say go away nicely, or hit “4” to give a formal (and legally binding), Go Away You TeleMarketing Slime and Take Me Off Your Damned List.
Only had it for a few days; unfortunately, not all telemarketers block their ID’s, so some are slipping through. So, further measures are necessary.
Enter Private Citizen, a group dedicated to fighting the good fight against telemarketing evil wherever they may find it. Sign up with them for $25 a year, and they send you a formal declaration to sign which gives them the power to request to have your name removed from a telemarketing company’s list. They then proceed to send it out in a mass mailing to 16,000 companies.
The fun part is that you may be thinking, well, companies will just ignore it. And indeed they might. But allegedly, if they do, they’re violating the law, and you can take them to small claims court. And Private Citizen’s mailing gives your case a little extra boost: rather than telling companies simply “Don’t Call”, they say: Call if you like. But you are hereby notified that from now on, my time is not free to you; but I will rent it at the price of $500 per call. You may signify your acceptance of this agreement by calling.
Fun, eh?
Anyway, I’m still waiting for the forms to go through, so I can’t vouch for Private Citizen’s actual effectiveness yet. But we shall see.
But lastly, what to do about those telemarketers that do actually make it through my telephonic barbed wire and electrified fences? They will have to deal with The Phone Butler.
A small gizmo that sells for about $30, it plugs into your phone line and sits there, lying in wait for the next unsuspecting telemarketing fool to wander into your lair. And when one does, all you need do is press “*” on your phone while the telemarketbeast is prattling away.
The Phone Butler cuts off the call, declaring — in a snooty English butler voice, natch — that he’s terribly sorry, but he must inform the telemarketer to go away, and by the way, please remove this number from your list.
Mine’s in the mail, so again, can’t vouch for how well it works, but it sure sounds like a lot of fun.
For more privacy-related info, check out AntiTelemarketer.com, which has lots of links and resources for folks who want to rid themselves of these electronic gnats.
Next post: E-mail spam, and an interesting tool for avoiding it without relying on the flaky logic of filters…