Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

Telemarketers beware

by Neal Kedzie - State Senator

September 15, 2011

The telephone rings. You pick it up, only to have a telemarketer on the other end. Even the thought of an unwelcome phone call causes many people to cringe, and it has happened to all of us. From telemarketing calls to junk mail, unwanted text messages to spam email, it seems solicitors are coming up with more and more ways to contact us. Not only are unwanted calls and mail bothersome, they are also time consuming, and some may even be frauds or scams.

One common soliciting call is a fundraising telephone call from nonlocal law enforcement and firefighter groups. While appearing to be for a good cause, most calls for police and fire fighter groups are not made by local officers. Even though it may seem like the caller is a police officer or firefighter, the solicitor is often a professional fundraiser. Professional fundraisers can, and often do, legally keep 75 percent or more of the money collected from such calls.

Other calls may be from a state police or fire association labor union. When a labor union collects money, it is divided between the professional fundraiser and the labor union, not the local department. If you receive such a call and are interested in donating, you may want to get specific information from the caller, including the true name of the charity, the actual location, and primary purpose, all of which must be disclosed by the caller, per Wisconsinís charitable solicitations law. Information about such charities can be found on Wisconsinís Bureau of Consumer Protection Web site at datcp.wi.gov/Consumer/Consumer_Protection.

Many individuals view telemarketing calls as an invasion of their home and lives. In fact, telemarketing is the top complaint filed by consumers to the Bureau of Consumer Protection. Further, not only are these calls inconvenient, they can be fiscally disastrous, as American consumers lose more than $40 billion each year to telemarketing fraud.

Fortunately, here in Wisconsin, we have a ďNo CallĒ List. The No Call List is a database of home and cell phone numbers of Wisconsin residents who do not want telemarketers calling them. Telemarketers wishing to make calls to residents of this state must purchase the stateís No Call List and refrain from calling the numbers on the list. Wisconsin residents wishing to sign on to this list may do so at any time. Signing up is free and easy to do. Simply sign up online at NoCall.Wisconsin.gov or by phone, toll-free, at (866) 966-2255. Registration on the list lasts for two years, and residents must re-register every two years in order to stay on the list.

Those who use their cell phones for texting may notice that unsolicited text messages are becoming more and more common. Not only are spam text messages a nuisance, they can also be quite costly, often resulting in higher cell phone bills. Here in the state Legislature, a proposal has been offered to expand the definition of solicitation on Wisconsinís No Call List to include text messages. I support that bill, and have added my name as a co-sponsor.

Spam mail is also becoming a nuisance. Spam mail is any unsolicited e-mail message sent to a personís email account. It is estimated that email users receive over 3,000 spam mail messages each year, and the number is growing. Time consuming and potentially dangerous, some spam mail messages are able to infiltrate a userís computer, placing bugs and sometimes even obtaining personal information. Experts recommend spam messages not be opened and instead deleted right away, as some spammers know an e-mail address is valid and active once it is opened. More information on protecting yourself from spam mail can be found online at the Federal Trade Commissionís Web site at www.ftc.gov.

In this age of telemarketing and technology, it is important for individuals to be able to protect themselves from unwanted messages infiltrating their lives. For more tips on protecting yourself from telemarketers and spammers, feel free to go on-line to the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protectionís Web site at datcp.wi.gov, or contact my office for any further information or assistance.

Kedzie can be reached in Madison at P.O. Box 7882, Madison, WI 53707-7882 or by calling toll-free (800) 578-1457. He may be reached in the district at (262) 742-2025 or online at www.senatorkedzie.com.