As you may have realized in the past 7-or-so years, the FCC has pretty much given up on the Do-not-call (DNC) list idea as an consumer protection method. What I mean by that is, when the DNC list was first invented, if you put your phone number on that list, telemarketing and scam calls pretty much ceased. It was a beautiful thing. But somewhere around 7 years ago, telemarketing and scam calls began to ring on my home phone several times throughout the day, despite the fact that my phone # was listed on the DNC list. Since then I have verified (numerous times) that my number was listed on the DNC list (and it still is) yet the telemarketers and scammers keep calling.
Why is this? Well, to be honest with you, I’m not 100% sure why this is, but from random things I have read on the internet, it seems that the fine a company gets for calling phone #s on the DNC list is so small in comparison to the profits that are made that these companies and scammers just go ahead and take the chance. And if they are caught and ordered to pay the fine, they just pay it and treat it as just another business expense.
If this theory is correct, then the solution would be for the FCC to increase the amount of the fines significantly so that these companies’ and scammers’ bank account would be hit so hard (in the event they are ordered to pay the fine) that it would seriously hamper their operations or even cause them to go out of business. But the FCC is apparently not interested in protecting consumers anymore (at least as far as phone commerce and scams are concerned).
So in light of this, telephone etiquette has changed. It is no longer suitable to call a phone # and ask to speak with so-and-so. Only fools (and there are many of them) would ever oblige to any request from any caller without knowing who the caller is. So, proper phone etiquette for a caller (commercial, scammer or personal) should be to fully disclose who they are before asking to speak to so-and-so. But they will never do this. Even legitimate companies, like banks, refuse to disclose who they are at the beginning of a call, but if they do they refuse to verify you account # over the phone – meaning you can never really know that they are who they claim they are.
So in light of this fact, it is the receiver of a call to change the way they conduct themselves over the phone in order to protect themselves as much as possible from unwanted commercial and scammer calls. Below are a few tips on proper phone etiquette for receivers of phone calls.
CALLER: “Hello, is Mike there?”
YOU: “We do not speak to callers who do not address themselves properly. With whom am I speaking?”
At this point, even legitimate callers might just hang up on you. This is fine because if the info they wish to convey is truly important, they would just send you a letter in the mail. But if they do address themselves properly after you ask them to, then you kindly tell them you are the person they are looking for or get the person who they are looking for. On the other hand, if you do not recognize the person/company, you simply tell them they have the wrong # and just hang-up.
CALLER: “Hi, who is this?”
YOU: You just simply hang up unless you recognize the caller.
You won’t typically come across this scenario, but I have a few times. It’s always just a “wrong number” call.
CALLER: “Hi, this is your electric company [blah, blah, blah]. Can I please speak to [name on actual electric bill]”
YOU: “Can you please verify our account number?”
At this point, there are 3 possible scenarios that will typically ensure:
- The caller will hang up. They were not actually the electric company.
- The caller will tell you that for privacy concerns they do not verify account numbers.
– In this case, you simply hang up because they are not really the electric company.
– However, it could be that they are your electric company and they are calling to sell you in-home wiring insurance or some other add-on service. If you think this is the case, you can talk to them if you wish, but it’s best to just tell them to send you all important information in the mail to the mailing address they have on file and just hang-up.
CALLER: [when you say “hello”, before the caller speaks there is a long, unnatural pause].
Just hang-up. This is a telemarketer or scammer. Most of the time, the computer systems these companies use cause a delay in the system where-by they don’t hear you say “hello” or they don’t hear it for a couple seconds. You are being auto-dialed by a computer because you are on a list. If it happens to be a legitimate caller who is having phone trouble, they will call you back.
CALLER: “Hi, this is the [insert town/city here] Police Department [blah, blah, blah].
In a case like this, it may very well be the police department as it is illegal to impersonate a police officer. Just speak to them and use your head to determine if, in fact, they are truly the police. Before you hang-up, make sure to get the police officers full name and badge number. If after you talk to them you have some doubts, call the police department to verify they did just recently call you.
In a case where you have Caller ID (either on a landline or cell phone), you should never answer a call from phone number you do not recognize. Most of the time these are telemarketers and scammers and if you answer the call they will keep calling you even if you do not “buy-in” to what they are pitching becasue you are tagged as a live number, and therefore a possible prospect. Instead, just force it to voicemail. If they are a telemarketer or scammer, they usually never leave a message. If it truly was an important call, they will leave a message and you can them call them back.
I’m sure there are other scenarios but these are the most common that I have thought of/experienced myself. The underlying message of this post is that you have to make sure you do not give out your identity over the phone and protect yourself and your family. By operating as outlined in the above scenarios, we make it hard for legitimate commercial callers to speak with anyone in your home. If enough of us did this, these larger companies would lobby the FCC to increase fines and/or do other things that make it harder for telemarketers and scammers to operate profitably. This would make telemarketing/scammer calls decrease drastically and would eventually make it easier for legitimate businesses to get through to their account holders over-the-phone.