Too Many Solicitations? Better Start Protecting your Information
~ By Gerald Rome, Colorado Securities Commissioner ~
When I go out to talk about fraud awareness, I am sure to hear frustration with the amount of phone, email, and direct mail junk that consumers receive on a daily basis. While there is no way to stop this from happening, what most regulators know is that consumers can reduce these calls if they get better at protecting their information.
First, a quick briefing on robo-calls, telemarketing calls, and direct mail marketing: According to the Federal Trade Commission, any call that is attempting to sell a product or service must comply with the National Do Not Call registry as well as any robo-call blocking services provided by phone companies. These and other solicitations including email and direct mail must have a consumer’s consent, which can be oral or written depending on the type. Any solicitation must provide the option to unsubscribe, and must comply with those requests immediately.
There are some exceptions to these rules. Pre-recorded calls are allowed when they are purely informational, for example, appointment reminders, emergency calls, debt collection, and the big one: political calls. Solicitations from charitable organizations are also exempt provided they make the calls themselves.
What many may not know is that consent can be given for these solicitations in non-apparent ways. Ever tried to win a television or vacation at a trade show? Filled out paperwork before going on a cruise? Given a retailer your number or email at checkout? What you likely didn’t do was read the fine print or ask why the information is needed, and when the calls and mail start rolling in you can safely bet that somewhere along the way you gave consent.
One glaring reason why robo-calls are so rampant is that many of them are scams. The people behind these calls aren’t really motivated to follow the law, and the more sophisticated regulators get in catching these perpetrators, the more sophisticated they become in eluding us.
So, knowing all of this, how can you best insulate yourself from the daily annoyance of unwanted solicitations, and also decrease the likelihood of falling for a scam?
- Sign up for the Do-Not-Call list (www.donotcall.gov), as well as services that block direct mail and email offers (www.DMAchoice.org). Be sure to go back and renew this at least once a year.
- Once that’s done, you can reasonably assume that any unknown number on your caller-ID is likely a scam. Informational calls will leave a message, scammers won’t, so just let your voicemail get it.
- If you accidentally happen to answer a robo-call, NEVER push 1 to speak to an operator, or any other number that claims to remove you from the list. If this is an illegally made call, interacting with it will likely just lead to more calls.
- NEVER enter into contests at trade shows, fairs, or at the mall. You are likely giving your legal consent to be bombarded by solicitations when you do this, and even if you opt out at a later time, your information will likely already have been sold or shared (also through your consent) with other organizations.
- Finally, if you are aware of companies that are violating the law, report it. You can report to the FTC online or by calling 1-888-382-1222. Also be sure to report scams to law enforcement such as the Colorado Bureau of Investigations 24 hour Identity Theft & Fraud Hotline at 855-443-3489. And of course, if you ever need assistance, please call DORA’s brand new Senior Hotline at (720) 593-6720, and we will assist you.
If you are thoughtful and vigilant with your information, you can greatly reduce your likelihood of becoming a victim of a scam, and you may just have a little more peace and quiet too.