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Putting a Stop to Junk Calls and Mail

In the December issue of School Nutrition, author Mark Ward, Sr., PhD, offered sound advice to readers about ways that they can decrease their risk of falling victim to Internet predators (“Password Protected?”). A first step is to maintain your privacy and put a limit to unsolicited offers from telemarketers—whether they reach out to you via your computer, your phone or your snail mail address.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act allows creditors and insurers to obtain your name from consumer credit reporting companies for the purposes of offering credit cards and insurance policies. But the Act also permits consumers to opt out. To do so, go to your computer, get on the Internet and visit optoutprescreen.com. This website is run jointly by the four major consumer credit reporting companies: Equifax, Experian, Innovis and TransUnion. You can opt out either for five years or permanently.

To limit telemarketing calls, list your home phone or cell phone with the National Do Not Call Registry at donotcall.gov. Once you do, the only unsolicited callers who may phone your number are political organizations, charities, pollsters and any company with whom you have a business relationship or from whom you’ve requested information.

Automated sales calls (also known as “robocalls”) are illegal, unless you’ve given the caller written permission to contact you in this manner. Automated informational calls are okay; examples of these include notifications that school is cancelled, your payment is overdue, your flight is delayed, your prescription is ready, your doctor appointment is tomorrow, etc. Prerecorded political ads also are permitted.

Unfortunately, new technology allows robocallers to fake their caller IDs, making it harder to ignore these when they come. If you receive a prerecorded sales call, hang up—then report the call to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at ftc.gov/complaint.