Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Help Me Howard: Do not call
Unwanted calls at home. We've all been on the receiving end at one time or another. But for one woman, the constant ringing at 5 a.m. drove her to finally call for a little help from you know who, Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- In a horror movie, the ring brings death. In Cari's house, it brings headaches.
Cari Escobar: "It is once a month, on the 11th day; it is at five o'clock in the morning."
On the 11th day of each month, at about 5:08 a.m. to be exact, Cari gets the call.
Cari Escobar: "I'm usually asleep, so they wake me up. I've answered many times."
And after Cari hangs up, the automatic dialing system calls her again and again and again.
Cari Escobar: "If I hang up every time, they will call back. I've tried doing that. It is six, seven, eight times, until I unplug the phone."
According to Cari's caller ID, the calls come from either Teleport or Tellular Communications in Atlanta, Georgia. But Cari has no idea what they are selling because when she answers, just silence.
Cari Escobar: "Nothing, there is no noise, there is no voice. It is nothing."
Cari has called the numbers back. No one answers. She is on the national do-not-call list, but it does no good.
Cari Escobar: "I've contacted them, and nothing has been done. I've contacted the Better Business Bureau. I've contacted the State Attorney's Office. I can't get anybody to help me."
She has contacted the phone company to block the calls, but the calling company beats that by using 10 different numbers.
And so, each month, on the 11th, at 5:08 a.m., the calls come pouring in.
Cari Escobar: "There is nobody else I could think of to turn to, and I'm hoping they can help me to put a stop to this."
The do-not-call list is supposed to block unwanted callers, so what do you do when the calls keep pouring in, Howard?
Howard Finkelstein: "No one has to put up with annoying phone calls, but stopping it depends on who is calling. If it's a telemarketer trying to sell something, and you are on the feds' or Florida's do-not-call list, contact them. If it's a harassing computer malfunction, contact your phone company."
We contacted Cari's phone company and found out this was not a telemarketer but a mistake. A company called Telular was making the calls. They told us that an alarm company incorrectly entered her home number as a contact number, and once a month, when the company tested the line, Cari got called. Her number was removed. She won't be getting any more calls.
Most unwanted calls, though, are not mistakes. They are telemarketers, and you can stop them quickly.
Howard Finkelstein: "If you are not on the do-not-call list, telemarketers have the right to call you. But it's easy to stop them. You can either get on the state or national do-not-call list. There is not much difference between the two, the federal list is free, the state list costs you $10 to sign up, so take your pick."
For Cari it's a nice beginning to the new year, although we won't be positive for a few more days.
Cari Escobar: "I would like to be able to sleep on the 11th day of the month."
One thing we uncovered here, if you are getting bugged by a bad telemarketer, it takes a lot for the feds to go after them, and here is why: The Federal Trade Commission only has 1,000 people at the agency, and there are 167 million people on the do-not-call list.
They pick who to go after based on the number of complaints about the company, so the message: Complain to the feds.
Irritating tones left your ears ringing? Want to tell a marketer to go away? Call us for help. We won't phone it in, we'll dial up a solution.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Federal Trade Commission
National Do-Not-Call Registry
Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
Florida Do-Not-Call List
Help Me Howard
EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org (Please include your contact phone number when emailing)