You Probably Didn’t Give That Robocaller Permission To Call You

Until a few years ago, businesses only needed a tenuous “established business relationship” in order to justify blasting out pre-recorded phone messages to consumers. Even though it’s now required that robocallers get a signed authorization before autodialing your number, many are not following these rules.

According to the Telemarketing Sales Rule:

A written agreement need only contain: (1) unambiguous evidence that a call recipient is willing to receive telephone calls that deliver a prerecorded message by or on behalf of a specific seller; (2) the telephone number to which such messages may be delivered; and (3) the call recipient’s signature.

The FTC doesn’t require a hard and fast template for obtaining this approval, but does suggest:
I would like to receive telephone calls that deliver prerecorded messages from [ABC Co.] that provide special sales offers such as _________________at this telephone number: (_____)____________.
Yes No
________[Signature]________

The agreement must meet the following criteria:

1. Before the consumer agrees, the seller must clearly and conspicuously disclose the consequences of agreeing — namely, that the agreement will result in the seller delivering prerecorded messages to the consumer via telemarketing calls;

2. The seller may not require, directly or indirectly, that a consumer agree to receive prerecorded message calls as a precondition for purchasing or receiving any good or service; and

3. The seller must give the consumer an opportunity to designate the telephone number to which the calls may be placed.

The permission can be done and stored electronically, but it must comply with the Electronic Signatures In Global and National (E-SIGN) Commerce Act.

However, the approval can not be given verbally.

“[A] consumer’s oral response to an in-store request from a sales clerk for a home telephone contact number would not evidence the consumer’s agreement to receive prerecorded calls,” writes the FTC, “nor would an oral response to a sales clerk’s express request for the consumer’s agreement to receive prerecorded message calls.”

Moreover, even if you do give permission to the business, the authorization does not extend to related parties, such as affiliates, marketing partners, or others.

The bad news — especially for people who live in so-called election year battleground states — calls from political candidates and charities are still allowed under the law, whether you’ve given the caller permission or not.

So when that phone rings and it’s a robocall, unless you have distinct recall of giving that caller your permission to send you a pre-recorded call (calls from live human beings have a different set of rules), you should do the following:

1. Hang up.
2. Do NOT press any buttons — even if it’s to try to remove yourself from the company’s list — as doing so may just lead the robocaller to call you more.
3. File a complaint with the FTC, which has recently renewed its intention to crack down on illegal robocalls. You can do that online at FTC.gov or by calling 1 877 FTC HELP.

You could also look into having your phone service provider block the number. However, since robocallers rarely use the same number for too long — and since some phone companies charge to block numbers — you may end up spending money to block someone that will just call you from a different number.

“If the call is a sales message and you haven’t given your written permission from the calls on the other end, the call is illegal. Period,” says FTC attorney Kati Daffan, who adds, “If a company does not care about obeying the law, you can be sure they are probably trying to scam you.”

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  1. HogwartsProfessor says:

    You can’t make them stop. They jump around so much it is impossible to keep up with them. I’m still getting calls from Rachel from Card Services. I don’t have caller ID on my landline, and there’s no way to make it quit. I’m just not answering that line anymore.

    Also, that phone robot is tres adorable.

    • kingofmars says:

      Have you reported them using the FTC website? It’s pretty effective.

      • HogwartsProfessor says:

        I’ll try it.

        • HogwartsProfessor says:

          Well, nargles, it redirected me to Do Not Call. I filed a complaint. I can’t get the number because I don’t have caller ID on my landline (they charge for it and I’m not paying it when my cell phone gets it free).

      • George4478 says:

        By ‘effective’, do you mean ‘does nothing’?

        Cardmember services, home pressure washing, mortgage refinance, free Disney vacations, bogus political surveys — these calls roll into my house in huge numbers and have for years no matter how often they’ve been reported. So now I don’t bother to report them anymore.

        I bought a Digitone call blocker to get them under control and that little box has been far more effective than the FTC ever has. It traps the first ring, checks the incoming number against your blocked/allowed list before it rings your phone. I still get a dozen calls a day in the call log, but only 1-2 are numbers/area codes I haven’t previously blocked. Greatly reduced the ringing phone interruptions.

        In October-November I plan to go to a whitelist and block all non-approved phone numbers since I’ll get dozens of “vote for me’ calls.

      • Jaynor says:

        Don’t bother with Card Services – I’ve sent them in probably 4 times and the internet is abuzz with hate for them… they just switch numbers/locations and keep trying. They’re a total scam-factory, so they don’t really care flying in the face of the law.

        They also hang-up on you if you say you’re on the do not call list… or sometimes swear at you.

        • Sarek says:

          This has also happened to me with these clowns. They hung up on me when I told them to stop calling. I’ve put numerous incidents out on the Do not call site. But they call multiple times a week, and have been for a few years.

      • icerabbit says:

        What do you mean it is effective?

        I’ve been reporting the majority of robo- and other telemarketing calls we get (where they hang up or don’t give you a message, but you can run that caller ID number through google and get dozens to hundreds of reports against that number) since Do Not Call was enacted and the 90 day waiting period expired.

        I still get called by the same outfits, including “cardholder services” on the home phone and cellphones; anywhere from once a week to several times a day.

        The enforcement is a big failure, imo. Pull the plug, lock the folks behind it up and throw away the key.

      • alexwade says:

        DNC doesn’t work when the douche bags are using a spoofed number. I’ve been getting robocalls from numbers that begin with 206-496-xxxx. You try calling the number back and you get “this call cannot be completed as dialed”.

    • dwtomek says:

      Out of curiosity, why exactly are you paying for that line? Does your ISP require it or something?

      • HogwartsProfessor says:

        Yes, it’s DSL. It’s the cheapest option I have around here, and I’ve heard numerous tales about how AT&T isn’t too good with naked DSL. So until I can afford something better, I keep the landline. I can’t risk losing my internet while I’m job hunting.

  2. crispyduck13 says:

    So what do I do about Robotexts?

    • padams89 says:

      I report them to the FCC since it is an unsolicited wireless message that is specifically prohibited by the TCPA. I also report it to the FTC as a do-not-call violation (since it is). Finally, I report it to my state attorney general (AG). In my case PA.

      Of note, I take a screen shot of the text message to upload for the FCC complaint and prinout a screenshot for the AG complaint (since they don’t accept electronic submissions with attachments).

      Hope this is helpful!

      • Sarek says:

        I have also reported these to the Do not call site. So far, all unsolicited texts have been unique occurrences. I don’t know if there was actual enforcement or not.

  3. SirWired says:

    Great. Thanks for nothing, FTC. What good is reporting it going to do if your only clue as to who the evildoer was is a bogus CallerID entry?

    • kingofmars says:

      There are other methods of pulling up the records. I suspect the FTC uses Other methods that don’t rely on just the caller id. I think they go into the billing records and look for a pattern. Once I actually report the Robocaller on the FTC, they normally stop after a couple of days.

      • frodolives35 says:

        This is very true. The hex code between class 5 and class 4 switches is quite long and does id where the call comes from but fraud is fraud and there are ways around that to.

  4. wackydan says:

    VOIP phone.. Sign into web site controls… forward every telemarketing call to the FTC phone # in DC.

    Works for me.

    Another HIGHLY effective way is to forward to a fax machine.

    • Captain Spock says:

      Google Voice FTW. They will give a “not in service” message.

    • scoosdad says:

      How do you propose to properly identify the next incoming telemarketing call as telemarketing so you can pro-actively set your web controls to forward it to the FTC or a fax?

      I actually have those kinds of controls on my VOIP line (it can give them the standard phone company “this line is no longer in service” recording and tones as one option) and it’s a Jedi mind trick to think it does anything. I’ve never seen more than a handful of telemarketers call twice from the same number. They change numbers, exchanges, area codes, real numbers or spoofed caller ID, and it’s like playing whack-a-mole. I’ve even got certain area codes blocked on mine with wildcards, like 312-***-**** only if I’m reasonably certain I’d never get any desired calls from area code 312 since that will block everyone’s calls from that area code. If mine could also block based only on the name associated with incoming calls as well as the number, I’d have a few of them beat since one of them (it’s Rachel at Card Member Services) keeps using the name “PACIFIC TEL” on most of their calls but uses a different number every time. The other day I started to see “FLORIDA CALL” on the caller ID. Yeah, like I’d immediately answer that one. My telemarketer block list is currently at about 200 individual numbers and maybe 25-30 full area codes and the phone still rings every day with a new one for the list. It’s getting to the point where I may reluctantly have to create a whitelist of people who are allowed to get through instead, but that’s not the best solution.

      No, until it becomes a felony to falsify caller ID information, and the phone companies are required to block it from even happening (like maybe refusing to pass a call through unless its caller ID data matches the number permanently assigned to the originating line by the telco), that scheme is probably a waste of time.

      • Not Given says:

        Pacifictel is a phone company, Card Services is not providing the name of the calling company if you answer and they abandon the call. They’ve been hanging up on me after the 3rd ring, I believe, to avoid answering machines.

      • Not Given says:

        Pacifictel is a phone company, Card Services is not providing the name of the calling company if you answer and they abandon the call. They’ve been hanging up on me after the 3rd ring, I believe, to avoid answering machines.

    • LuzioFantazmic says:

      How does your VOIP provider differentiate between telemarketer calls and, say, your credit card company calling to verify suspicious charges?

      • scoosdad says:

        That happened to me.

        In my case (see my comment above) where I also globally block any incoming numbers in the toll free zone like 800-, 866- etc. I had to list my credit card company’s security number that comes in as an 800 number on a ‘whitelist’ that gets through regardless of whatever rules I had set up that might have blocked them otherwise.

        So far they’re the only ones that ever call me on legitimate business showing a toll-free incoming number. That’s done that way so if you’re not there you can automatically return their call using that 800 number.

    • lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

      I’d rather figure out a way to forward their calls to each other, or back to themselves. That would be even better.

      • scoosdad says:

        I do that. I had one easily identified caller who persistently used the same number to call from which I verified was coming from a particular company location. I set my list to automatically forward their calls back to themselves.

        The caller? My local CVS, robocalling me to remind me it was time to refill prescriptions that had long since expired and were invalid. I asked them to take me off the list several times, they said they would, and yet they kept doing it anyway.

        The pharmacists in my local store trigger the calls manually from their computer during slow times in the store. So everytime they do that to me, their PA system automatically announces to them, “One pharmacy call”. If you’ve been in a CVS you know that announcement. So basically by calling me, they were calling back in to themselves and driving each other crazy.

        A pharmacist once remarked to me, “you know we’ve been having problems reaching you by phone”. I smiled and said, “I know, it’s great” and walked off.

        • lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

          I just got another call from Sixtel LLC, allegedly calling about electricity rates, according to the whocallsme website.

          It turns out my Comcast Xfinity voice has selective call forwarding, which I wasn’t aware of. So – when Sixtel LLC calls again, they will get forwarded to whoever “Product Dev Corp” is, from a Colorado number.

          This is how I am going to handle this stuff from now on. If I get a call from a number more than once, their number will get added to the list, and I’ll have the next moron call Sixtel.

  5. JJFIII says:

    You mean politicians exempted themselves from a law? No way. Next you will tell me all congressmen have universal health care.

    • scoosdad says:

      Could I also tell you that they have insider business information that might help them in the market, too? No, you’d never believe that!

    • The Colonel says:

      They do have government healthcare. BUT, remember, they have to wait a whole month before it kicks in.

      • JJFIII says:

        A whole month. How do they ever get by? I think they all deserve raises to account for that month they go without insurance. It’s a travesty. JUSTICE NOW. I can hear the echos from the congress now
        “What do we want?”
        “HEALTH CARE”
        “When do we want it?”
        NOW, not in a month”

  6. The Beer Baron says:

    “So send one dollar to Happy Dude!”

  7. Captain Spock says:

    She can robocall me any day! wait… did I say that out loud?

  8. TheMansfieldMauler says:

    If complaining to the FTC, be sure to include a sentence that specifically states that you do not have a business relationship with the caller and that you did not give them permission to call your number.

    If you don’t put that stuff in there, they’ll have to contact you and have you add that to the complaint before they can take any action.

  9. Guppy06 says:

    “You could also look into having your phone service provider block the number.”

    At this point I’d rather setup a whitelist than a blacklist.

    • tralfaz says:

      I’m with you. The ability exists already (and has for years) but telecoms, of course, blocked its use/introduction.

  10. giax says:

    I also report each and every robocall and spam sms to 800notes.com.
    If I get a call from other than my area code and/or I don’t recognize the number, I don’t answer, I google first to see if it’s a spam caller. Surprise, > 90 % it is.

  11. Not Given says:

    I’ve started making complaints every time. robocalls, telemarketers, hangups, etc.
    http://www.fcc.gov/complaints/
    There is a whole variety of subjects you can complain about here.

  12. jaydub says:

    I like to take the call, push the relevant buttons to get to a person, and then sing, whistle, or “fake-engage” them. If I do talk to a person, I tell them I can’t hear them, and ask them to speak up. Then to speak up even more. Just the idea of them hollering into the phone in their call-center gives me enjoyment. I’ve strung them along for numerous minutes, pretending to be an old granny (easy mark!), or someone else, and absolutely had a riot wasting their time.

    Or, I hand the phone to my 12 year old son and tell him to start asking *them* random questions. He thinks it’s hilarious, and it doesn’t last too long.

    The more time of theirs that I waste, the less likely they are to call me back. And it’s truly fun–on my terms.

  13. yankinwaoz says:

    I’ve filed complaints with the FTC about robo calls to my mobile. They responded by telling me that there was no merit to my complaints. Huh? I don’t know how I could make it any clearer that some robocaller trying to sell me an auto warranty on my cell phone was illegal.

    Bottom line. I got the sense that the FTC doesn’t want to bother investigating.

  14. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    These asshats call me too. My parents have had health issues over the last year, and I try to make sure I answer the phone when it rings in case they are having problems.

    9 times out of 10, it’s a damned robo caller, and I get really pissed when I’m trying to cook or cut up meat, only to have the phone ring and when I find it and see the ID, it’s Rachel or one of her minions.

    So, since I have Comcast VOIP and just a regular cordless phone, I entered all family, friends, doctor’s office, etc. into the phone’s phone book, and assigned them a different ring than the default ring. If anything rings on the default ring, I let it go and look later.

    And reporting those stupid faked caller ID numbers to the FTC is worthless. I’m quite sure there’s no real number that reads “FLORIDA” 000-000-xxxx.

  15. Rick Sphinx says:

    What to do, ask questions, and report to http://www.donotcall.gov. Got robocalled several times from “Financial Ctr”, about lowering my credit card payments. I pressed 1 to speak with someone. Said I was interested, but what is the name of your company, reply “Card Services”, what’s the real name I asked, reply “that is the real name”. I then asked where they are located, that’s when they hung up. So I call back, and it says “… to have your number added to our Do Not Call List, Press 1″, and is just repeats over an over, no option to speak with anyone. So that just confimed it’s a scam. Besides, I’ve been on the do not call list for years! I don’t need to add it to their company’s do not call list.

  16. frodolives35 says:

    My 80 year old father has a telezapper. I have been listening to that out of service doodoodoo tone every time I call him for the last 8 years. It did cut down al ot of the calls though.

  17. BurtReynolds says:

    I recently discovered that my Panasonic home phone has a block feature, so I’ve been putting that to work. First was the Washington Post’s nearly daily attempt to get me to start subscribing again.

    The political calls will be next. I live in VA and already have been getting calls and attempts at surveys from the state GOP for the last two months.

  18. quieterhue says:

    I added my number to the “Do Not Call” list a couple of months ago. The robocalls stopped for about a month and then recently I started getting them again. The calls come from an unknown number, so I have no idea who’s calling me. My policy is that I never pick up the phone if it’s from an unknown number in the hopes they will give up. But still, how can they call me if I’m on the “Do Not Call” list?

  19. Libertas1 says:

    Kati Daffan is relevant to my prurient interests.

  20. Kyle says:

    The FTC’s Do Not Call List does NOTHING—mainly because the FTC does nothing. They merely compile the list, and it’s up to local law enforcement to pursue action against companies that abuse the list.

    I actually had a telemarketer laugh at me and say, “You think that thing means anything?” At the time I was incensed; now I sadly realize he’s right.

    The Do Not Call List has all the fearfulness of a baby blowing spit bubbles.