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BBB says to ignore Rachel the Robocaller's instructions

Pressing 1 could get you put on another calling list.

Thursday, November 22, 2012 - 12:01 am

This is a consumer advice column written by the Better Business Bureau of Northern Indiana. It appears Thursdays in Business.

Rachel of Card Holder Services calls my house a lot. And from what I've been hearing, she keeps calling most of you, too.

Rachel is the robocaller who wants to make sure I know that if I press 1, I'll be connected to a live customer service agent who will be more than happy to see whether I qualify for lower interest rates on my credit card.

Rachel isn't the only computerized autodialer to have become a pest.

Telemarketers pushing auto warranties, debt consolidation, medical discount cards and grant procurement programs – almost all being scams – are just as incessant.

The calls are illegal under the FTC's Telemarketing Sales Rule – unless you provided advance written permission to be contacted. I don't recall ever having done so and I bet you don't either.

If you choose to answer a robocall and “press 1” as instructed, your number is automatically added to a hot list and you'll be transferred to a “qualifier” who asks questions to see whether if you fit the profile of the type of consumer the telemarketer is courting. If you qualify, you're transferred to the sales person who gives the pitch. The bonus surprise is that your name and number will begin to show up on the lists of other telemarketers and you'll get even more calls.

The Federal Trade Commission, which receives about 1 million robocall complaints every month, is stepping up its game to put a stop to the illegal calls.

The FTC's most recent effort is a $50,000 challenge to anyone who can devise a way to end robocalls on landlines and cellphones. If you think you're up to the challenge, visit robocall.challenge.gov.

Until robocallers are silenced, BBB and the FTC advise:

•Hang up. Do not press 1 or any other numbers to be taken off the list.

•Consider blocking the number(s).

•Report it at donotcall.gov.

Marjorie Stephens is the communications director for the Better Business Bureau of Northern Indiana. Before you make a purchase, go to the BBB website at www.neindiana.bbb.org or call 423-4433 or toll-free 1-800-552-4631 to check out a business.