Do Not Call cuts down on at least some of the unwanted phone calls, but you can do more to stop them.
Is that your phone ringing? Don't answer it.
In the 10 years since the Do Not Call legislation was enacted, Americans have put 204 million phone numbers on the registry, but telemarketers are still interrupting family dinners, reruns of "CSI" and, worse, naps.
Last year alone, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) logged more than 2.2 million complaints against telemarketers.
In Minnesota, there's still plenty of confusion about why calls from political organizations and robocalls that pitch refinancing are still getting through, said Dan Hendrickson, communications coordinator for the Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota. "They think once they're on the list, their headaches are over," he said.
Sadly, that's not the case. But there are ways to reduce or eliminate unwanted phone calls. Here's how to edge closer to a telemarketer-free day.
Q How do I sign up for Do Not Call or verify that I'm on the registry?
A Go to www.donotcall.gov or call 1-888-382-1222. It takes 31 days for the ban to take effect after signing up.
Q How long does a number remain on the Do Not Call list?
A Permanently. The FTC periodically culls numbers that have been reassigned or disconnected.
Q Are certain organizations exempt from the law?
A Yes. Nonprofit organizations, political organizations, businesses with a prior relationship with the customer and some solicitors seeking face-to-face meetings.
Q Can I ask those organizations not to call?
A Yes. According to the Minnesota Attorney General's guidelines these organizations must maintain in-house no-call registries. Any organization -- other than a political one -- that continues to call after you have requested to be removed from its list is violating the law and may be subject to a fine.
Q Is there a way to stop political calls?
A Call the party, political action committee or candidate's office and request that your number be removed from their call list. You also can sign up at www.stoppoliticalcalls.org, a nonprofit voter advocacy organization, which notifies the political office on your behalf.
One note: Cooperation is voluntary. Political organizations can't be sued for noncompliance, said Mitch Katz, public affairs specialist at the FTC.
Q Does signing up for a sweepstakes or putting a business card in a drawing constitute a "business relationship"?
A No. And even if you do have a business relationship, you can still request to be put on a company's no-call list.
Q Do I need to register my cellphone to stop calls from telemarketers?
A Yes, although federal regulations already prohibit most telemarketing calls to cellphones, Katz said. The exceptions that apply to landline phones (political organizations, for example) also apply to cellphone numbers.
Q Are those robocalls -- the ones that offer home refinancing, lower interest rates or auto warranties -- exempt, too?
A No. Unless you've opted to receive such calls, they're illegal and have been since 2009. However, they're still common, in part because the operators are difficult to track, Katz said.
Q How can I file a complaint against a telemarketer?
A If you've been on the registry for 31 days or longer and are still receiving calls, phone the FCC's help line at 1-888-225-5322, ext. 4, or go to www.startribune.com/a1378.
Q What are the penalties and fines assessed by the government?
A The Minnesota Department of Commerce can impose a $1,000 penalty for each violation by a telemarketer. The federal maximum is $16,000 per call, per day.
Q What else can I do to stop unwanted calls?
A The Minnesota Attorney General's office recommends checking with your phone company about call-screening features including selective ringtones for friends and family members, blocks on certain calls or blocks on all anonymous calls.
John Ewoldt • 612-673-7633 or email@example.com.