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Dealing with telemarketing calls

I have just hung up the phone on a telephone call informing me that I had won a load of prizes and requesting that I give my credit card number. Having been forewarned frequently by the media not to give out credit card information to anyone I do not know, I refused to do so.

This is not the first time I have received this kind of call, and I would like to be able to report them to someone. I believe you have published numbers to call to report fraudulent calls in the past. Please publish it again. This time I will cut it out and save it. Sallie Palmer

You are not the only one having problems with telemarketing calls. Read on:

What can I do to stop all these telemarketing calls? I get them at 8 in the morning and as late as 9 at night. There was an address in the paper, and we paid $10 to stop the calls but it did no good. I hope you can help. Mrs. J. Duoravic

Response: First, bravo for not giving out any personal information during a call you do not initiate. This is advice we cannot repeat often enough.

Second, it's unlikely that anyone with a telephone will ever be completely free of annoying, unwanted sales solicitation calls. Even if you have an unlisted, non-listed or non-published number, a certain number of solicitation calls may still get through. (Unlisted and non-listed numbers are not listed in the phone directory but are available from directory assistance. Non-published numbers are neither listed nor available.)

This can happen when a business you have dealt with places your name, address and phone number on a list that it sells to other organizations or businesses, or sometimes sales calls are made to all numbers in numerical order for a specific area or telephone exchange. In this latter case, the party calling usually does not know who is being called.

However, there are things you can do to decrease the volume of these pesky calls. They do require a bit of effort on your part.

The Direct Marketing Association maintains a name removal file that it processes and shares with marketers four times a year, beginning in January. It can take up to six months to notice a decrease, depending on when your name is added to the list.

Write to Telephone Preference Service, Direct Marketing Association, P.O. Box 9014, Farmingdale, NY 11735-9014 and ask that your name be put on its name removal file. Make sure that you include your name, address and telephone number with area code and signature. Your name will remain on file for five years, after which time you will have to register again.

Closer to home, you can have your phone number placed on the "no sales solicitation calls" list that is maintained by Agriculture Commissioner Bob Crawford's office. According to Terry McElroy, spokesman for the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, doing so can reduce the volume of sales solicitation calls you receive by an estimated 70 to 75 percent. While there is a cost to telemarketers to obtain the list, those who don't buy it do so at their own peril.

McElroy said that more than 120,000 residential phone numbers are now on the list. The department has collected more than $300,000 in fines and penalties from about 50 telemarketers who have violated the law.

The cost to be placed on this list, which is sent to Florida and national telemarketers, is $10 for the first year and $5 for each subsequent year. Write to Telemarketing, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, P.O. Box 6700, Tallahassee, FL 32314-6700, or call (800) 435-7352. A copy of the application form is also available at the department's Web site at http://www.800helpfla.com.

If you continue to receive calls, get as much information about them as possible, including the name of the person, company, time and date and notify the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services at (800) 435-7352. Be aware that certain types of calls are allowed, however. These are those made in response to a request to be called, to enforce a contract, to collect a debt, to solicit donations for a charitable organization, and, in an exercise of First Amendment rights, to sell newspaper subscriptions.

Action solves problems and gets answers for you. If you have a question, or your own attempts to resolve a consumer complaint have failed, write Times Action, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731, or call your Action number, 893-8171, or, outside of Pinellas, (800) 333-7505, ext. 8171, to leave a recorded request.

Requests will be accepted only by mail or voice mail; calls cannot be returned. We will not be responsible for personal documents, so please send only photocopies. If your complaint concerns merchandise ordered by mail, we need copies of both sides of your canceled check.

We may require additional information or prefer to reply by mail; therefore, readers must provide a full mailing address, including ZIP code. Names of letter writers will not be omitted except in unusual circumstances. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.

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