cyberspacial musings
bits about the real and virtual worlds

28 Jun

Do Not Call

The FTC’s Do Not Call list has to be one of the silliest exercises that I’ve seen in a long time. This feel good service allows you to register all of your phone numbers (both landlines and cell phones) that you want removed from the telemarketing call lists. I registered the five phone numbers that I possess and walked away with several observations.

First, there’s no security on the process. Anyone can conceivably register a phone number on the list, whether it’s yours or not. You are asked for an e-mail address for confirmation, but there’s no correlation between e-mail addresses and phone numbers anywhere. Where’s the harm here, you ask? After all, we’re talking about the most evil of problems — telemarketing. Well, it turns out that anyone can just unregister a phone number also. It’s trivial to obtain an anonymous e-mail address through Yahoo or HotMail. If I want you back on my list, I’ll just unregister you and then call you. There’s no protection. It would be trivial to write a program that registered every phone number and equally trivial to unregister them.

Second, this list of exclusions is equally silly. The following companies are exempt from the program —

  • long-distance phone companies¬†
  • airlines
  • banks and credit unions; and
  • the business of insurance, to the extent that it is regulated by state law.

Frankly I get more calls from long distance companies and banks offering credit cards than I do from anyone else. I feel bad for the local carpet cleaner who calls once a year because that’s who’s going to have to check the list, not the big banks who call incessently.

I think there’ll be a small, offshore company with a couple of hackers that undoes all of this for the banks. They can afford it and it’d be hard to beat until the phone companies themselves actually get involved in the verification process. Of course, they won’t because they are exempt and this is a huge source of revenue for them.

Honestly, if you want to beat the telemarketers you really have two options — telezapping and call intercepting. I used a telezapper for about two years and it significantly cut down the number of telemarketing calls I got. I still had to answer the phone, but most of the time the caller had already disconnected. I just recently got call intercept, which was offered through my Verizon service. That turned out to be a great option — no one gets through without a valid caller id. If you don’t have a valid caller ID, you need to announce yourself, which the telemarketers don’t do. Even if they do, you have the option of pressing a button telling them not to call again. This works.

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