Sure, George W. Bush screwed up the economy and started a needless war in Iraq, but there is one thing he deserves credit for. On March 11, 2003, he signed into law a bill establishing a Do Not Call Registry in the Federal Trade Commission. Before that, my phone was constantly ringing with calls from telemarketers. After I registered my phone number the next year, I got barely any calls.
Well, the telemarketers are back. I used to get a call a week at the beginning of the Obama administration, but now it’s up to three or four a day. Many of them are robocalls. I get calls from Rachel at Cardholders Services (who keeps being reincarnated) and Fernando at Home Installation Service. Today I got offered a luxury vacation in Miami Beach and help fighting the Internal Revenue Service. I hear from SGI in Phoenix and Magic Jack. A lot of companies want to help me pay off my utility bills or my credit cards.
I usually hang up, or scream obscenities, but sometimes I play along. A little while ago, I got a call from Senior Safe Alert offering an “absolutely free” way to summon help if I have a heart attack or fall down the stairs. The call said the service was endorsed by the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association. After I pressed one, I was connected with Dorothea, who promised me “a free medical alert system” that is worth $400. I asked her several times if the service was really free, and she repeatedly said there was “no charge.” Finally, after I threatened to hang up, she admitted that there was a monthly charge of $34.95.
If you look up any of these scams on the web, you’ll see they are epidemic. According to the Better Business Bureau, “Seniors nationwide are reporting pushy, suspicious telemarketing calls from businesses going by the names ‘Senior Emergency Care,’ ‘Senior Safety Alert’ or ‘Senior Safe Alert.’” The telemarketers have also invaded cell phones. I got a call today on my cell phone from 321-325-4359 in Florida. When you call the number back, it says, “You have reached a non-working number.”
George W. Bush stopped these calls. Why isn’t Barack Obama stopping them? One reason is that the telemarketers have gotten more sophisticated and reckless. Some of the calls aren’t actually intended to sell you anything. They just want to see whether you will press “one” to respond. If you do, whoever was calling you can then sell your number as a potential sucker to a telemarketer who does want to sell you something.
I wanted to see what the people at the FTC would say about the increase in calls, so I phoned their press office yesterday morning at 202-326-2180. Finally, after seven rings, I got a recorded message which said that the Office of Public Affairs was not answering. To leave a message, I could press pound. Otherwise, I could remain on the line and be connected with a different number. I stayed on the line and was then told, “Sorry the person you called is not available.” I was then instructed at the tone to leave a message. I left a message with my name, number and what I was calling about. I’ve yet to hear back. That’s too bad. I had a suggestion for how to solve the problem. Transfer responsibility for enforcing the do not call registry to the National Security Agency.
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