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Make them stop!

Using do-not-call lists via the Web.

I have seen what Hell looks like and I am here today to bear witness for you. In Hell, you have to listen to all the telemarketers who ever called you, tried to call you, or would have called you if your credit rating was higher than DD.

I mean, Christmas and New Year’s are over and my finances are looking uglier than a rusted-out Chevrolet Nova with lime-green shag carpeting. So why are these people calling me nonstop?

I want to stop them. But more than stop them, I want to torment them.

You can put your name on your state’s do-not-call list. A full 23 states now have them, and in Texas the rate of junk calls dropped 85 percent with the list’s help. Links to your state’s are available through the Direct Marketing Association. The DMA site explains when the list goes into effect (or if it has already) and tells you where to go to get on it.

Realtor Magazine Online publishes a similar page but it also tells you how many people in a state are signed up for its do-not-call list, what kinds of fines the states levy on telemarketers who violate the law, and who’s exempt from the law (was Realtors your first guess?).

The DMA also offers a nationwide Telephone Preference Service (TPS). This do-not-call service was established in 1985. When you register with the TPS, they put your name, address, and telephone number on a do-not-call file for five years. This file is provided four times a year to telephone marketing companies who choose if they want to use it. However, all of the 4,700 companies that are members of the DMA are required to use the list.

But–there’s always a big, fat but with telemarketers–if you register online, there’s a $5 service charge, and your request will be processed in 30 days or less. Or you can register free for the TPS by printing out and completing the online form, then mailing it in. The mailing instructions to register are free of charge. But if you register by mail your request will take about 90 days to be processed.

Now, this won’t kill off these unnatural Freddie Krueger-type evils, because nonprofit and political organizations and businesses with a prior relationship with you (for example, they sold you some geegaw before) are exempt.

This is why I resort to demanding their home phone number, and extracting a promise that they’ll kill themselves immediately if I’m not 100 percent satisfied with their product. And then there’s the classic “What are you wearing? I’m not wearing anything right now” response that usually nets me a quick hang-up on the other end.

But if you don’t want to opt for those tactics, try the Opt-Out tool at the Center for Democracy and Technology. It lets you create a group of letters to print out and snail mail to many of the companies that refuse to let you opt out online.

Click on any of the links the CDT offers, fill out the necessary form that pops up for company A, e-mail it with another click, then go on to the next link for company B, so that another opt-out form will appear, and so forth. The forms will help get you off both telephone and regular mailing lists.

For $20, Private Citizen Inc. adds your name to over 1,500 telemarketers’ do-not-call lists. For $10, it puts you on the do-not-mail roster of the eight largest list sales and junk mail firms. How serious are these guys? They also publish “So…You Want to Sue a Telemarketer.”

For more information on how to stop telemarketers, check Yahoo for Anti-Telemarketing.

Keep in mind that these companies might not literally erase your name when you opt out, but they will add it to the roster of people who don’t want their personal info sold to or shared with other companies, or who don’t want to receive grating telemarketing calls or direct mail. Again, it will take a few weeks for the ads to stop, but they will at least slow down, if not stop completely.

That, of course, would be expecting far too much. As the Devil said in the short-lived show “Brimstone”: “Junk mail…one of my lesser triumphs.”

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