Charity calls raise hackles

CONSUMING INTERESTS

December 11, 2007|By DAN THANH DANG

The Q:

Most of us know how to stop unwanted telemarketing calls. But how about frequent calls from charities that can also disrupt a quiet evening?

Reader Laura Wrench says she wants to put a stop to "what are obviously auto-dialed calls we have been receiving. We will get a call from a particular number, but there will be no one on the line. We received dozens of calls from the number 443-321-8775; each time, there was no one there."

When Wrench called the number back, she heard a recording for an organization that solicits for one or more unspecified charities. On a recent weekend, the same thing began to happen with a new number. Wrench called that number, too, and got the same recording.

"My husband is gravely ill, and we are in the process of selling our house and moving to be closer to his children," Wrench said. "We really do not need the extra disruption and distraction of phone calls from phantoms. Do you know who I should contact to try to put a stop to this?"

The A:

Unfortunately, no one can really put a complete stop to these calls. Wrench can't block the individual numbers permanently, either, since they seem to come from multiple numbers.

The Federal Trade Commission's National Do Not Call Registry prohibits most telemarketers from calling you if you register your number on the list. It does not, however, cover calls from polling companies, politicians and charities.

With that said, the FTC says that if a third-party telemarketer is calling on behalf of a charity, you, the consumer may ask not to receive any more calls from, or on behalf of, that specific charity. If a third-party telemarketer calls again on behalf of that charity, the telemarketer may be subject to a fine of up to $11,000 if the call is reported to the FTC.

Now, in Wrench's case, the calls are from an automated system. I called both numbers and heard the recording of a woman who says that her unnamed charity fundraising center is calling on behalf of various local and national charities that also are not identified. Most people might hang up before she finishes her talking points, but it would be wise to listen to it all the way through.

The woman promises to call again to give me an opportunity to help women's and children's organizations in my area. She reminds me that the federal Do Not Call list does not apply to charities, but if I wish to be placed on their "internal do not call list" I should leave my full name and phone number, including the area code. And then there is a "beep" to leave my message.

If it is a legitimate charity center as it claims to be, leaving your name and number should do the trick. If not, it would be wise to call the FTC.

Reach Consuming Interests by e-mail at consuminginterests@baltsun .com or by phone at 410-332-6151. Find an archive of Consuming Interest columns at baltimoresun.com/consuming.

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