Created: 1995. Updated: 2004



(How to Get Rid of Junk Mail, Spam, and Telemarketers)

According to research, telephone solicitors are required to stop calling you if you tell them to stop! You can collect $500 from them on an ongoing basis every additional time they call you. Here is a description of what to do. Full details can be found on the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse telemarketing page. See the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Telemarketing Sales Rule. Additional information can be found on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) home page, National Fraud Information Center, and Scambusters.
Here are the exact regulations:
See the FCC consumer article on the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) of 1991. Thhis Public Law 102-243 (1991), added a new section, 47 U.S.C. Section 227 to amend Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. The TCPA says that ifa telemarketer who calls you after you directed them not to is in violation of the law and may be fined up to $500 per incident. If a telemarketer willfully or knowingly breaks the law, the penalty can be up to $1,500 per incident.
Zen and the art of small claims has good information and a handbook you can obtain, and shows success stories. CallMeNot also has a good legal reference section.
Russ-Smith's excellent Telemarketing and E-Mail Marketing page also offers information on your rights under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), as well as information on current lawsuits, and how you can join an ongoing discussion list.

What You Can Do

   Call the new National do not call registry!
Call 888-382-1222. Or go to

Your phone number(s) will be blocked from telemarketers for five years. If you receive a telemarketing call after October 1, 2003, get the name of the company, phone number, and address and contact the registry at the number or website shown above.
In addition, you can contact your phone company and change your listing in the phone book. Request that your name only be listed without your address (most phone companies do this without charge). When your name is listed without an address, you will get less junk mail and fewer telemarketing calls. Phone book information is gathered into databases which junk mailers and telemarketers use. Without an address, they can't mail you, and they will be much more reluctant to call. Of course, you can have your listing completely unlisted and unpublished. It will cost a little more, but it does keep you off of calling databases. If you just get an unlisted number, the phone company will still sell your phone number to companies on CD-ROM. An unpublished number will not be sold.
Consider getting a second phone number that rings with a unique ring on your existing phone line. This is called "distinctive ringing". Keep this number unlisted and unpublished and only give it out to family and friends.
Many telemarketers now use a computer to call all numbers in a given area, so the above techniques won't help in that situation. To avoid these automatic calls, simply order call blocking from your telephone company. This means that anyone who dials your number must allow your caller id to view their number (you don't have to have caller id to use call blocking). Since most telemarketers don't want you to know their number, they will not unblock their phone number in order to dial your number. However, some telemarketers are circumventing this by having their calling number listed on your caller ID as "unavailable", as when you receive a call from a foreign country. It still helps to have an unpublished number - this keeps your number from being listed in calling databases.
Or, instead of paying the outrageous monthly fee to have your phone number unavailable, have the phone company list your number as follows:
    [Initial(s)] [Pseudonym*] .......City, State  Phone number
* The pseudonym could be your wife's maiden name, your middle name (that you never use), your grandmother's maiden name (don't use your mother's--that's the security password for many of your banking transactions), or a name of your choosing. This only costs a few dollars and it's as good as an unlisted number. When a telemarketer calls (using phone book information), they will ask for "Mr. or Mrs. Pseudonym", which is as good as saying, "Hello, I want to sell you something." The response to such a call is simple, "Remove me from your list and never call again".
Another helpful addition to the listing (available in some areas) is: "(data line)", meaning that the phone number is connected to a fax or computer and not to a live person. ONE NOTE OF CAUTION: Caller ID, including your local 911 service, takes its information from the phone book, so be prepared to identify yours as the Pseudonym residence in an emergency. Also, you will be identified as Pseudonym on Caller ID units of people you call.
With telephone service providers, you can get the following features:
  • Call blocking prevents your phone number from being displayed on called ID displays of people you call, with the exception of large corporations (see below). It does not work when you dial 911, 800, or 900 numbers.
  • Anonymous call rejection prevents people from calling you who have call blocking. These are usually telemarketers who don't want you to see their number on your caller ID display.
  • Caller ID is a display that shows who is calling you.
  • Pic freeze allows you to "freeze" your local and/or long-distance telephone provider so that you don't get "slammed". "Slamming" is where a telephone provider transfer you to their service without your knowledge.
You can also have harassing calls traced by pressing a key sequence on your phone. This typically costs $1 per trace. After three such traces, a letter is sent to the caller by the phone company. Check with your phone company on how to use this feature.
Did you know that when you call a 1-800 or 1-888 number, they automatically get your phone number via ANI (Automatic Number Identification)?. Many companies integrate this information into their databases, and many then purportedly sell their databases (although it's supposed to be illegal to sell ANI information directly). In addition, companies get your name and number on their monthly invoice. Also, more and more large companies use sophisticated telephone PBX systems that automatically give them your phone number, even if you are calling their standard number, have an unlisted unpublished phone number and have call blocking on your account! Always assume that when you call a large corporation they have your phone number.
The following is a partial list of companies that sell your phone number in the US. Call them and insist you be deleted from lists that they sell.
  • Experian (Consumer Opt Out)
    PO Box 2106
    701 Experian Parkway, Allen, TX 75013
    901 W. Bond
    Lincoln, NE 68521, Attn: Consumer Services
        800.520.1221 credit data
        800.407.1088 opt out automated number - call this number
           If you need to talk to a real person, call the Lincoln, NE office
           at 800.228.4571 x4819
        888.567.8688 pre-screened credit opt out - also call this number
           Note: if you don't want to enter your phone number at their prompt,
           enter all zeroes.
        888.397.3742     800.527.3933 main office
        (800 numbers are changed every few months).
        972.390.3000 target marketing
        714.712.6512     714.385.5589 opt-out if you are a business
    Contact them every two years. They will notify Trans Union and Equifax for you.
    Also, you can order your credit report
  • Haines-Criss-Cross
    Fullerton, CA
    800 850-9558 (was 800 562-8262)
    They update their lists once per year.
  • Donnelly Marketing (now owned by Info USA)
    416 S. Bell Ave, Ames, Iowa 50010
    Deb McKinley - very helpful.
    Be sure to insist they completely delete your information
    from their database. They normally do not delete suppression
    requests from their database, the only flag them as suppressed.
    Their full "List Install" clients purchase the entire database,
    including suppressed names. It's up to the clients to honor
    the suppression flag. This is an error-prone and questionable
  • MCI
    800 289-6722 and 800-950-5555
    Call to be removed from their telemarketing and mailing lists.
  • Sprint
    Call to be removed from their telemarketing and mailing lists.
  • AT&T
    Call to be removed from their telemarketing and mailing lists. AT&T is still violating the Telemarketing Act. (I'll never become an AT&T customer). Here's more information on AT&T's violations, and a sample letter you can use if you are harassed by AT&T.
  • See Contacts and Details on Junk Mailers for further information.

Contact the Mail Preference Service division of the DMA (Direct Marketing Association) to have your phone number deleted from lists. (The DMA is a pro-junkmail, anti-consumer organization, but it is still worthwhile to contact them).
If you do get a call from a telemarketer, have fun! Tell them to hold on for a few seconds - that you have another call. Come back on in a few seconds and then say "Ok, I'm back. What were you saying?" Then put the phone down (don't hang up) and walk away.

Predictive Dialers

"Predictive dialers" are machines that automatically dial phone numbers for telemarketers. These machines analyze their calls to keep their telemarketers busy all the time. The machines track how long telemarketers stay on a call, the portion of calls that go answered, etc., and then predict how many outgoing calls to make. These dialers typically dial all phone numbers in an exchange. When you answer a call made by a predictive dialer, you typically hear a few seconds of silence before being connected to a telemarketer, or before being hung up on.
In order to make sure that their telemarketers never have an idle moment, the dialer can make more calls than their telemarketers can handle. Some calls are abandoned when the recipient answers and the recipient gets a hang-up. The DMA (Direct Marketing Association) recommends "A level set to as close to zero as possible but no higher than 5%". But an abandonment rate of 5% means that 1 out of 20 recipients get a hang-up call and it is very likely that companies set their abandonment rates higher than this.
Predictive dialers generally do not register on your Caller-ID, so it's nearly impossible to determine who they are. When you ask to be deleted from company's dialing list (and you should), it is unlikely that they will program their predictive dialer to avoid your number. But pre-recorded solicitations are illegal under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). You can collect $500 per offense. See U.S. Code Section 247, above. Of course, the industry and the DMA are geared up to fight such legislation.
Dealing with Telemarketing Slime recommends not to say "hello" more than once, in order to confuse predictive dialers.

State-specific Programs

Many states have implemented "do not call" lists which telemarketers have to buy and honor. You can add your name to your state's list:
  • Alabama "do not call" registry, 877.727.8200.
  • Alaska: register with your local carrier for a fee of $5-$15.
  • Arkansas "do not call" registry, 877.866.8225. $10 for first year, then $5 per year.
  • California.
  • Colorado No Call List website. Also see the law. See the Colorado Telemarketing No-Call Law.
  • Connecticut "do not call" registry, 800.842.2649, free.
  • Florida (see "online forms") "do not call" registry, 800.435.7352. $10 for first year, then $5 per year.
  • Georgia "do not call" registry, 877.426.6225, $5 for two years.
  • Idaho "do not call" registry, 208.334.2424 (Boise), 800.432.3545 (outside Boise), $5 for three years.
  • Idaho, 208.334.2424.
  • Indiana.
  • Kansas has passed regulations on predictive dialers.
  • Kentucky "do not call" registry, 800.671.7701, free.
  • Minnesota state law section 325E.27 states that it's illegal to use an autodialing device that delivers a recorded announcement, unless a live operator first talks to the person being called.
  • Louisiana.
  • Maine, 207.626.8861.
  • Missouri "do not call" registry, 866.662.2551, free.
  • New York "do not call" registry, 800.697.1220, free. Also see the NY "do not call" registry website.
  • Oregon "do not call" registry, 877.700.6622, $6.50 for first year, then $3 per year.
  • Pennsylvania.
  • Tennessee "do not call" registry, 877.872.7030, free.
  • Texas "do not call" list, 1-866-896-6225, $4.80 for two lists.
  • Vermont.
  • Wisconsin.
  • Wyoming.
  • If your state is not listed above, see the DMA list of "do not call" states.

Additional Links

Telephone frauds and scams are described by AT&T. One particular scam involves calls to area code 809 - don't return calls to area code 809; it will cost you a lot. has an excellent program to help you get off telemarketing and junkmail lists.
Don't miss Vince Nestico's superb Anti Telemarketing appealing and informative page!
JUNKBUSTERS provides information on how to reduce telemarketing calls.
Bad Dog Press has a book and web page on How to Get Rid of A Telemarketer.
Dealing with Telemarketing Slime offers good suggestions (such as don't say "hello" more than once) and technical tips on how to confuse predictive dialers.
Here's a great Anti-Telemarketing Program compiled by Herold Fix. It contains some very good points as well as general tips!
The PreFone Filter product allows you to filter out telemarketers before your phone rings. sells a call screener.
See these Anti-Telemarketer Links for further information. provides resources on telemarketing calls.
Southeast Texas Telephone Consumer Protection Act site contains good resources.
The Christian Science Monitor website has published articles on telemarketing: For whom the phone tolls - reader's respond and Under Federal Law.
The Telezapper sends a "disconnected" signal when a telemarketer predictive dialer calls. It is available from Radio Shack and other stores. Try to find a store other than Radio Shack - one that does not ask for your personal information when you make a purchase.
Report telemarketing fraud to National Fraud Information Center. The Federal Trade Commission is cracking down on telemarketing fraud, and has a news phone hotline at 202 326-2710.
Sign this online petition to Congress requesting that special "no call" prefixes be made available to everyone.

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Copyright 1995-2004 Fred Elbel. This material may be freely used and distributed only for non-commercial purposes, with credit. Nothing in this web site should be construed as legal advice. This web site is provided for information purposes only. Opinions presented are those of the author (or of other contributors as indicated). Trademarks and copyrighted items remain the property of the owner.